Andrew Johnston, smiling all the way to the bank!
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We 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.