Crowned at The Shire London

Gary King takes his first win at Seve's Course

It was with mixed emotions that we set off for our 5th event of the year at the Severiano Ballesteros designed Shire London Masters Course. With Seve having sadly passed away only hours before, after fighting a deadly brain tumour for three years. It was to be a bitter, sweet tournament for us and the 132 professionals playing in the event.

As a mark of respect to Seve we gave all the pro’s a black ribbon to wear throughout the two days and to a man they all did so. This showed the immense respect for the man who did for European golf what Arnold Palmer did for American golf.

As with everything he did Seve produced a layout that was extraordinary as opposed to a traditionally laid out golf course. With 6 par three’s, 6 par fours and 6 par fives it would test the patience and imagination of all the players.

As seems to be the norm now, the first day saw an ever strengthening wind sweeping the cobwebs away from the Shire London Masters course and it was a definite  advantage to go out as an early starter. This proved to be the case when the first group home included a 5 under par 65 from Tony Piccolo and a 4 under par 66 from recent winner Andrew Johnston. Gary King, playing in group 6 also produced a sparkling 5 under 65 to join Piccolo at the top table.

Guy Woodman, in group two produced a solid 3 under 67 to stay in touch with the leaders and he was joined by Martin Sell, Tommy Haylock and Scott Fallon in the chasing posse.

A stroke further back on 2 under par 68 came James Busby and Jay Beisser. Charlie Simpson, who by the way had a nasty 8 on the 16th hole in his 1 under 69, sat a further one shot behind alongside Mark Laskey, Westley Wray and Adam Carson.

With the scene set for day two with a calmer wind and bright sunshine we wondered would Piccolo hold his nerve to gain his first Jamega Tour win or would the more experienced players overtake him?

Although the conditions were calmer the scoring seemed worse for some strange reason though the exception was James Horn who shot a brilliant 4 under par 66 to rocket him up into the prize fund into joint 10th winning £360 for his efforts.

Unfortunately first round leader Piccolo stumbled a little with a closing 5 over but still finished joint 6th winning £650 and gaining a lot of experience. As the leaders reached the final holes the lead was grasped by Gary King with birdies on 15 and 16 which took him to 6 under par. Haylock who was challenging King for the lead until he stumbled giving stokes away with bogeys at 14 and 16 to eventually finish second to win £3,000.

Although with a 2 shot lead King was not home and dry yet with water playing a part in both the finishing holes. However he negotiated both with pars and stood victorious, winning by two and picking up the winner’s cheque for £6,000.

Although an emotional tournament tinged with sadness I am sure that Seve would have been proud of his legacy, his creation, the magnificent Shire Masters Course.

A true test for one and all, a “must play” for all your diaries, give The Shire a call, take on the challenge that Seve has set for golfers of all standards.

Severiano Ballesteros
  1957 ~ 2011
You will always be admired and never forgotten.

Lee James battles wind & hayfever to win at Cumberwell.

Lee JamesOnto Cumberwell Park for our fourth event of the year and as usual the course was in fantastic condition with near perfect greens and beautifully manicured fairways you would imagine that there would low scores aplenty. However with a very strong wind whistling in from the East defending its honour a low score would be very hard to come by at Cumberwell Park on day one.

Mark Laskey turned in a very solid 2 under par 69 to set the bar a level that most thought could not be beaten as the wind increased throughout the day. John Banbury, Ian Winstanley, James Ablett and Gregg Blainey almost got there finishing on 1 under par 70 for the day.

James Ruth braved the elements to join Laskey on 2 under but they were all eclipsed by an unbelievable round of golf from Lee James who powered his way through the wind to present a faultless card to the recorders desk containing 5 birdies for a stunning 5 under par 66 to lead by three shots going into the second day.

Day two saw the sun shining again. Holding a three shot lead going into the last round could prove to be a double edged sword for Lee James. Does he still attack the course or defend his lead?

With the wind slowly decreasing in strength to just a breeze but still coming into the golfers from the East, several holes became good birdie chances on day two. Kris Jones was the first to rattle the leaders cage carding a 3 under par 68 which when added to his first round 74 placed him on level par for the tournament and in the clubhouse lead. His stay on the top of the heap didn’t last long though as Francis McGuirk who also shot a 3 over first round 74 edged out Jones with a final day 4 under par 67 to sit on 1 under for the event.

The lead changed again when Dale Whitnell, who at one point was 7 under after 14 holes and scaring the leader James, eventually finished with a best of the tournament 5 under par 66 to set a realistic target of 4 under par total for the leader Lee James to beat. Hot on Whitnell's heels in the group behind came Miles Mackman who was always playing catch-up throughout the afternoon and just failed to match Witnells tournament, score holing out at the last for an excellent 3 under par 68.

James meanwhile was trying to recover from a stuttering start to his round after a one over par front nine which briefly gave the pursuing pack a glimmer of hope. Benefiting from a short delay on the 10th tee, which gave James a chance to recover his positive thoughts of yesterday, he riffled an iron down the 10th fairway to set up a welcome birdie which inspired him to then wrench a brilliant Eagle from the short par five, 11th to re-establish a more comfortable cushion.

Meanwhile Tour newcomer Ian Winstanley, playing in the penultimate group, matched Mackman's 3 under total, both hoping to cling onto joint 3rd place. This looked an unlikely possibility with Mark Laskey on the last tee needing a par at this relatively simple finishing hole to join Whitnell on 4 under in second place. However Lasky incurred a penalty drop and finally holed out for a bogey 5 to join Mackman and Winstanley in third place each eventually winning £1,250.

Whitnell who was sat rueing his poor finish got the news that Laskey had bogeyed the last to leave him alone in second and with a consolation cheque for £2,500. James was breathing a sigh of relief after birdieing the 17th, which re-established his 3 shot lead, easily holed out for par at the last to win the tournament and the £5,000 first place cheque.

Cumberwell Park is one of our favourite stops on tour and as usual was faultless, with a beautifully presented golf course and hospitality which was boundless. It has a combination of 4 nine-hole courses of completely differing characters that will suit golfers of all standards, come and enjoy this truly terrific venue, we unreservedly recommend it to all.

Our next event at The Shire next week is now full and we are only taking reserves, we would urge everyone who wants to play in the remaining Jamega Tour events to enter soon, to avoid disappointment.

Andrew Johnston, smiling all the way to the bank!

Andrew JohnstonWe headed off to South Wales via the Severn Bridge for our third event of the year this time at The Vale of Glamorgan Resort, on the  Wales National Course, near Cardiff. Another strong field, which again included former PGA Champion Scott Drummond and European Senior Tour member Nick Job, assembled to battle for the £5,000 first prize.

With the course presented in the best condition possible having suffered a harsh winter and a subsequent lack of spring rain the players teed off in glorious warm sunshine and light winds.
The National is a long and demanding golf course and a lot of patience would be required by the eventual winner because a low score was not on the agenda for this week. As the first round scores started to come in with only a handful of players breaking the par of 73, the course was mounting a strong defence of it’s reputation. The par three 14th was, however, brought to its knees by Richard Gurney who speared his ball the centre of the cup for a brilliant hole-in-one and a bonus prize of £100 to celebrate his feat.
Former European Tour player Tom Whitehouse shared the top of the leader board with David James on 3 under par 70 with the posse of Jason Levermore, Stuart Archibald and Andrew Johnston chasing them one shot behind on 71.
Just four other players out of a field of 122 broke par on day one with Jake Amos, Stuart Manley,
Alex Belt and Kieran Staunton each scoring creditable one under par 72’s.
Only a total of nine players broke par on day one with the par fives, two, ten and fifteen proving card wreckers for many of the players including Lewis Richardson who finally holed out for a 12 on the second but then to his credit played out the remaining 16 holes in level par.

The second day was several degrees cooler and a stiff breeze swept over the course that would make scoring difficult for even the most skillful and experienced players.
Local hero and Paul Doherty set the pace and swept to the top of the leader board adding a brilliant 3 under par 70 to his first round 76 that gave him a chance of a home course win. Stuart Manley soon dashed Doherty’s hopes by adding a level par 73 to his first round 72 that edged him just one shot ahead. Manley was eventually to finish in third position overall and win £1,500 for his efforts.
Manley was to only enjoy his lofty status at the top of the leader board briefly as Stuart Archibald and Andrew Johnston, playing together in the penultimate group, approached the final holes with Johnston on four under for the tournament with 2 holes to play and Archibald back on one under.
In the final grouping of Levermore, James and Whitehouse nothing much was happening to interfere with the drama that was to unfold in an action packed final two holes that saw Johnston bogey both of them, whilst the determined Archibald parred the 17th and wrenched a rare birdie from the last hole to force himself into a play-off with Johnston that would decide the winner and the destination of the £5,000 first prize cheque.
With the temperature dropping as evening drew on, the tied duo headed for the first tee for their “sudden death” playoff. Both striking monster drives off into the distance, Johnston taking a tighter line and was rewarded with prime position in the middle of the fairway whereas Archibald’s ball nestled down into the spongy rough to the right, having to muscle the ball out, just scrapping onto the left side of the green, good shot!
Johnston slightly disappointed having found his ball to be sitting down in an old divot, with just his gap wedge in hand, full commitment required to get a perfect strike of  just 108yards, all that was left of the 456 yard hole!
The ball coming to rest less than 3 feet from the hole, a brilliant shot, to the delight of the last few remaining spectators.
 Archibald now feeling that only a miracle 30 yard putt would keep him in the game failed to find the cup in two and Johnston casually rolled in the winning birdie putt for the £5000 First Prize.