It could be the only tournament that Tiger Woods doesn’t win this year.
Next week sees the final of the Accountancy Age Masters, the culmination of a summer of intense competition on courses up and down the country.
Thirty seven golfers will tee off at one of the country’s finest courses all hoping to walk off with the coveted trophy and Masters jacket. They have already seen off stiff competition. But by next week that will count for nothing. Only one of them will win.
Among the favourites have to be Richard de Dombal, Michael O’Hara, Huw Battrick, Douglas Stoker, Simon Marus and Laurie Linnell – all winners of our six regional finals.
de Dombal won the North East Regional Final by taming the waterlogged Slaley Hall course in Hexham back in June while Michael O’Hara topped the leaderboard at the North West Regional Final after a fine 18 holes at Mere in Knutsford.
Battrick was the South West Regional Final winner. He survived the distractions of the magnificent views across the Severn to turn in the lowest score around St Pierre Park in Chepstow while accurate chipping and putting won Stoker the South East Regional Final at Hever Castle in Kent. ‘It was so windy we could have been playing in Chicago,’ was the verdict of one competitor.
Marus, meanwhile, scored an impressive 41 points off his 11 handicap – the highest score of any regional final – to win the Home Counties Regional Final at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire.
Linnell emerged victorious at the Midlands Regional Final at the Forest of Arden course near Birmingham.
He dealt admirably with the fast greens and played generous tribute to his playing partner after his victory. ‘I would like to thank him for his encouragement and not letting me drink beer at the refreshment stand,’ he said.
But if they – or any of the other 31 competitors – are to win they will have to emulate the form shown by last year’s winner of the Accountancy Age Masters, Nick Moss. He may have scored a relatively low 34 points to walk off with the trophy, but it was a fine score given the conditions.
Prolonged downpours made the Forest of Arden course near Birmingham play even longer than usual and made it hard for low handicappers to score well.
Moss, however, a 17-handicapper and winner of last year’s regional final, was more than equal to the challenge. ‘When we got to the half-way point one of the guys in our four-ball said 17 points would win it on the back nine,’ he said after his victory 12 months ago. ‘The rest of the time was just about hanging in there.’
Moss missed out on reaching the final this time around. And hopefully there will be no repeat of last year’s atrocious weather conditions at The Belfry next week.
The course the winner will have to master needs little introduction.
Competitors will play The Belfry’s magnificent Brabazon course. Already this year it has played host to the PGA Senior’s Championship and the Benson and Hedges International Open, won by Jose Maria Olazabal.
But next year it is the big one. The Ryder Cup will be played over the same course.
Next week’s competitors will be able to feel the benefits of the return of the Ryder Cup to The Belfry. The course has been redeveloped specially for the tournament at a cost of #2.4m. And professionals who have played it since it reopened in September 1998 are unstinting in their praise.
‘I have played some of the greatest courses and in my opinion The Brabazon at The Belfry ranks up with the best’, says Lee Westwood, winner of ten European Tour titles and one of the few golfers to beat Tiger Woods this year.
It is sure to prove an exacting challenge for all the competitors. It is a challenge, nevertheless, that any golfer would relish.
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If you want to live the golfing dream, the De Vere Belfry is undoubtedly the place to make it happen. The club and its three courses have earned a reputation as being second to none. It has played host to three Ryder Cup matches – with a fourth due to return next year. The course for the Accountancy Age Masters final – The Brabazon – was recently redeveloped at considerable expense and will provide players with a dream opportunity to play one of the world’s best courses. The Brabazon is also set to play host to the lucrative Benson and Hedges International Open – won this year by Jose Maria Olazabal – for the next three years.
North East Regional Final, Slaley Hall, Hexham
Richard de Dombal 34pts
Alan Hynd 29pts
Scott Moreland 27pts
Janet Nesbitt 27pts
Andrew Sneddon 27pts
Paul Williams 27pts
North West Regional Final, Mere, Knutsford
Michael O’Hara 37pts
Guy Howell 36pts (20 back 9)
David Madeley 36pts (18 back 9)
Stephen White 36pts (17 back 9)
Carl Cunnelly 34pts (16 back 9)
John Shaw 34 pts (13 back 9)
South West Regional Final, St Pierre Park, Chepstow
Huw Battrick 34pts (18 back 9)
Hassam Suffraz 31pts (16 back 9)
Steven Joseph 30pts (16 back 9)
David Chasemore 30pts (14 back 9)
Simon Knee 29pts (16 back 9)
Nicholas Heynen 29pts (16 back 9)
South East Regional Final, Hever Castle Golf Club, Kent
Douglas Stoker 35pts, (20 back 9)
Denis Maslin 34pts (15 back 9)
Nick Lamb 31pts (17 back 9)
Jeremy Ward 30pts (14 back 9)
Stuart Ritchie 29pts (15 back 9)
Keith Pratt 29pts (15 back 9)
Home Counties Regional Final, Brocket Hall, Herts
Simon Marus 41pts
Timothy Elliott 39pts
Geoff Lang 38pts
John Rowson 37pts
Colin Barr 37pts
Peter Mills 36pts
Colin Howe 36pts
Midlands Regional Final, Forest of Arden, Meriden
Laurie Linnell 38pts
Richard Luckett 34pts
Robert Freeman 31pts
Tony Brown 30pts
Derek Felstead 29pts
Nick Stewart 29pts.
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