John Gough dazzles at Royal Lytham to maintain remarkable run of success in major tournaments
OPENS: Monday May 2nd
FORMAT: 72-hole gross stroke play
John Gough’s astonishing run of results in major amateur events hit another new high last night as the Beaconsfield player won the 2022 Lytham Trophy.
The legendary Open venue has witnessed some drama over the years and Gough joined the pantheon of greats to illuminate the Lancashire Links with never-to-be-forgotten deeds on his way to an extraordinary one-shot victory.
Having bogeyed the previous three holes to lose the lead, the 23-year-old was staring down the barrel of another as he double crossed his approach from 150 yards into the one spot you don’t want to go at Lytham – shortsided left of the green on 17.
It was the same mistake Adam Scott made during his infamous meltdown over the final few holes at the 2012 Open. The Aussie bogeyed the last four to lose by one to Ernie Els and ten years later Gough looked to be on that same path.
However the England international produced the shot of his life, a bump-and-run with a 9 iron off the back of the green-side bunker. As the ball made its way on to the putting surface, he started to follow it and couldn’t hide his delight as the ball trickled into the centre of the hole, dead weight, for the unlikeliest of birdies. It put him back in front and he hung on to become the first player since James Heath in 2004 to hold both the English Amateur and Lytham Trophy titles at the same time.
“If I go on to win Majors or whatever I will never forget that shot as long as I live,” said the Spanish Amateur champion.
“When it was about five feet out I gave it the biggest fist pump of my life.
“On the next tee Robert Moran’s caddy Mark Boucher, who I lived with for four years in America, said to me: ‘When that ball went in I could see every vein in your head’.
“That was the tournament there! That shot.”
With 15-year-old Connor Graham (Blairgowrie) in the clubhouse on 281 (+1), Gough knew a par on 18 would be enough and he went back to his his tried-and-trusted peel-cut drive to try and take the bunkers out of play. However he overdid the fade and found the rough on the right. With 127 left, he then caught a flyer to send the ball to the back left of the green.
John Gough’s phenomenal run in major amateur events since June 2021:
• June 2021 – Palmetto Amateur (USA): 1st
• June 2021 – English Men’s Amateur: 1st
• August 2021 – Brabazon Trophy: 3rd
• September 2021 – SE of England Links: 3rd
• December 2022 – South Beach International Amateur (USA): 17th
• February 2022 – Jones Cup Invitational (USA): 3rd
• March 2022: – Spanish Amateur: 1st
• May 2022 – Lytham Trophy: 1st
With 35 feet to go, and memories of three putts on 14 and 16 fresh in his mind, the BB&O star pulled a brilliant putt out of the bag when he really needed it, the birdie attempt coming to rest just two inches short of the cup.
And history was made for a player who has now won three of Europe’s biggest tournaments in the space of ten months while also finishing third at the 2021 English Strokeplay (Brabazon) and 2021 South East of England Links.
“It is going really well and I don’t want it to stop anytime soon,” added Gough, who is set to break into the top 50 in the WAGR rankings, which would guarantee him a place at the US Amateur at Ridgewood Country Club in August.
“Tee to green I was was the best all week. I didn’t putt well and in fact when I shot three under par in the first round I had three three-putts but on the flip side I only found one fairway bunker all week.”
In an event where even the leading lights were posting 7s and 8s, Gough only had one double bogey across all four rounds. It came on the final day at the fifth where his tee shot plugged and then his second caught the lip of the bunker and then plugged in his footprint.
It meant just getting the ball out anywhere and he two putted from 40 feet for a five.
However he looked to have taken control of the competition around the turn, starting at the seventh, which he described as a “turning point”. Having missed a number of good birdie opportunities at three, four and six, he finally converted the hardest chance, rolling in a 20-footer to get back level for the round and level for the tournament.
With both he and playing partner Robert Moran (Ire) birdieing nine, Gough’s lead was just one. Up ahead Scottish sensation Graham would birdie 12 to draw level for a few minutes until the Englishman sank a bomb at the same hole to get back ahead.
But by the time the Scottish junior international was playing the 17th he was leading after Gough three putted 14, could only make bogey on 15 after finding a shocking lie with his tee shot and then on 16 three stabbed to drop one behind.
However Graham bogeyed 17 while the English international sent the large watching crowd into raptures with his antics at the penultimate hole and it set up his never-to-be-forgotten title success at the first attempt.
He added: “I went to America when I was 17 so missed out playing the Lytham Trophy a few times but I played in the Fairhaven Trophy and we would go along to Lytham to watch the better players.
“In fact I only played it (Lytham) for the first time two weeks ago with Callan Barrow and Jamie Van Wyk, who are both members there.
“It really helped me understand the challenge and it certainly stood me in good stead.”