As expected, Southport & Ainsdale proved comfortable winners of the English Champion Club Tournament at a sunny Trentham in Staffordshire.
Starting the day ten strokes clear of the field, the Lancastrians added a collective 217 to their first round 210 for 427, five under par, and were never really threatened, ending still ten shots ahead of runners-up Hindhead from Surrey with defending champions Coventry third on 441.
S&A (image © Leaderboard Photography) became the second Lancashire club to win the title, following in the footsteps of Formby, back-to-back winners in 2010 and 2011.
With a combined handicap of plus-three, Sean Towndrow finished on four-under-par 140, Daniel Creaney on 143 and Sean Blinkhorn on 144, level par.
“This is brilliant,” said Sean Towndrow. “It’s a fantastic way to end the season and it’s nice to win it for our club. We came here with a decent team and we were quietly confident but we never got ahead of ourselves.
“We just went out and played. Yesterday was superb but today was a bit of a grind. But to finish under par is phenomenal. The course was in great condition but you have to drive well and putt well. Get those two things right and you post a good score.”
Towndrow confirmed his pedigree with a second successive 70 containing four birdies while Creaney had three birdies in his 73. Blinkhorn’s 74 was much more adventurous.
He eagled the 527-yard second hole, then triple-bogeyed the fifth only to bounce back with a birdie at six. However, the first of his four bogeys came at nine but he responded with further birdies at 13 and 14.
Hindhead started the day in ninth place, 14 strokes off the pace but their combined 213, three under par, hauled them up to second spot thanks to 70s from the two Davids, Corben and Ryles.
Coventry made an even more spectacular rise in defence of the title they won a year ago at Dudsbury. After finishing the first round in 18th place, they produced the lowest return of the day, a four-under-par 212 to finish a creditable third. Robert Browning and Andrew Carman, members of last year’s winning squad, both went round in 69 while Matt Cryer added a second 74. Browning had five birdies in his 69 as did senior international Carman.
“I’m delighted after shooting 79 yesterday,” said Carman. “It shows there is life in the old dog yet. After going out in 33 I had a chance to go four under at ten but missed it. However, I had a couple of chip-ins from off the green at 16 and 17 which helped.”
At one stage it seemed that Spalding from Lincolnshire, for whom Simon Richardson shot back-to-back 69s, might get into the top three but they eventually finished equal fourth alongside Heswall from Cheshire and Worksop from Nottinghamshire.
The best round of the day was produced by Heswall’s Oliver Carr, a 68 which equally the course record set in the first round by Minchinhampton’s Laurie Potter. Carr’s card contained a back nine of 32 for the second successive day.
But after an eagle-three at the 14th, he nearly came to grief at the par five 18th when his second shot finished behind bushes and three flag poles left of the green. Before he could get to his ball a lady pocketed it. Happily it was replaced and he chipped and putted to save his par.
As winners, the Southport & Ainsdale boys qualify for the European Champion Club Tournament in Bulgaria in late October and on this form you wouldn’t bet against them completing the double.