Set on an estate of outstanding beauty the Heythrop Park course is best described as a tough but fair test of golf that can very quickly become a beast if not played correctly. The small private graveyard on the left of the tough opening hole, which is out of bounds, buried the hopes of several golfers who failed to find the centre of the fairway off the tee!
Fine weather prevailed for the first day with just a light shower now and again but even given the benign conditions only seven players managed to break the par of 72 as the wind strengthened throughout the afternoon.
The best of these was a previous winner on Tour, Adam Runcie, who finished with solid first round of 3 under par 69 to set a new professional course record and lead by one shot at the end of the day. Tucked behind, in Runcie's slipstream, on 2 under par sat Miles Mackman and last week's winner John Spagnuolo who, still enjoying a rich vein of form, closed out his first round with 3 Birdies and an Eagle!
Two of last week's contenders, Yasin Ali and Craig Farrelly, headed up the chasing pack alongside Steve Surry and Iwan Griffiths all handily placed on one under par.
A very light misty rain drifted through the trees as the early starters started their second rounds and that gave a quiet, eerie feeling to the morning. As the second day progressed it became clear that no one was going to run away with the tournament because, at best, players were hanging onto their scores rather than pushing on.
The one exception to this was the engagingly colourful South African, Lyle Rowe, who roared round the testing layout in a magnificent 5 under par 67 that when added to his first round 75 set the clubhouse target at 2 under par.
Rowe's 67 would have been the new course record but for the fact that preferred lies were in operation on day 2 due to heavy overnight rain.
For some time it looked possible that Rowe could at least be involved in a play-off, however after a lengthy wait Craig Farrelly leapfrogged Rowe and assumed the lead on 3 under par.
Steve Surry was next to show his hand and a birdie at the eighteenth would give him the outright lead at 4 under par. Surry eventually settled for par and the prospect of the seasons first play-off loomed large.
In the last group both Adam Runcie and John Spagnuolo had chances to join the play-off if they could birdie the Eighteenth. However it was not to be and the battle for first place would be between Challenge Tours Steve Surry and Alps Tour player Craig Farrelly.
The play-off would be sudden death over the First and Eighteenth holes and with the small Jesuit Graveyard waiting for anything going left and trees on the right, nothing other than a dead centre tee shot would do at the long first extra hole.
Surry hit the drive of the day that split the fairway, leaving little more than a 6 iron to the green. Farrelly took the more conservative option and hit a 2 iron leaving him the longer shot in to a tight pin on the left. He failed to make the green and Surry played another gem of a shot to leave himself close enough to the pin for a certain par.
Farrelly wedged on but narrowly failed to make his putt for par and that left Surry the winner, holding a cheque for £3,000 and Farrelly clutching the runners up prize of a cheque for £2,000.
It was good to see Surry come back to his roots for a confidence-boosting win and this may be a lesson to others who struggle to find the winning formula on other tours.
Heythrop Park was presented in excellent condition by Phil and the dedicated green keeping staff, thoroughly enthusiastic as this was their first ever tournament experience, what a good job they did, many thanks from us all.
With on site hotel accommodation it is a must stop on any golfers calendar. Rachel and her staff in the clubhouse catered for every eventuality and were professional but also friendly to all.
We are off to The Warwickshire next week to play the Kings course and it is already looking to be busy, so get your entry in and paid for before 6pm on Friday to ensure your place.
This is also another qualifying event for the final Super 7 tournament being held at Bowood on the 10th and 11th of September.
Details of the Super 7 can be found within the tour news section of the website.