American Golf finals an ‘unreal experience’ for competitors. No fewer than nine categories battle it out for glory at The Belfry as the American Golf championship season rounds off in spectacular fashion at the Ryder Cup venue
By Martin Inglis
Four-time Ryder Cup venue The Belfry was the location for three days of thrilling golf finals recently, with eight American Golf champions crowned and six progressing to the Heritage Resorts Tournament of Champions in Mauritius.
Following a summer series of 44 free-to-enter regional qualifying events, golfers from all over the UK and Ireland descended on the Midlands venue to battle it out for the title in their respective categories: 9 Hole pairs and individual, Family, Scratch, Ladies, Senior, Par 3 and even Adventure Golf Championships.
American Golf has championed nine-hole golf for some time and this year’s competition, including the introduction of the individual event, didn’t disappoint. The pairs competition saw Paul Hutton and Howard Burton from Wortley Golf Club claim their win with victory on the 18th hole from Fulford Heath’s Ross Holmes and Scott Nixon.
The 9 Hole individual, meanwhile, was just as tense with Penn Golf Club member Steve Holmes taking the title 2&1 against Flint Golf Club’s Jason Owen.
Holmes joins Hutton & Burton on the plane to Mauritius for the Heritage Resorts Tournament of Champions, but it had him caught in two minds. “I played very well but I can’t believe it - and my gaffer won’t believe it either because I’ve got no holidays left!” he said.
The Ladies’ Championship saw the most emphatic victory of Saturday with Michelle Black and Lisa Duffy of Rochdale Golf Club winning 4&3 over Orla McGuiness and Kay Farrell from Swords Golf Club near Dublin.
“I can’t say we played our best golf in the final but we dug deep and scrapped,” said Duffy.
The Senior Championship saw a first for American Golf, with returning champions Martin Leo and Ian Hendry taking the title for the second year running. The Sussex pairing won 3&2 from Niall McDonnell and John Greer of Co. Dublin.
“It’s a difficult format, matchplay over nine holes, but we played well enough to win,” said Leo.
One of the real highlights of the weekend was the Family Championship, which saw family members take to the fairways together in search of the title.
Father and son pair Ian and James Fox from Leyland Golf Club came out on top after beating Droitwich brothers Ian and Alan Gandy 3&2. This was inaugural staging of this particular event and it quickly became a firm favourite with the competitors and crowds alike.
“It was an unreal experience playing with my dad,” said 16-year-old James. “We always play golf together but it makes this ten times better winning with him.”
The best golf of the weekend was unsurprisingly played in the Scratch Championship, where Chris Abbott from Lutterworth Golf Club capitalised on a fantastic opening round of four-under-par to take the inaugural title from Chris Brook of Hinckley Golf Club.
The Par 3 Championship came to its head-to-head conclusion on a specially-prepared course over the back nine of the famed Brabazon, with Shaun Mason of South Staffs Golf Club triumphing 4&2 over Oxley Park member Paul Stokes.
Last but not least was the Adventure Golf final, played over the Ryder Legends Course, where Simon Lee and Steve Gerrish captured the title.
“It’s a great way to get people who don’t play golf into the sport,” said Lee. “They can come along and have a bit of fun. It was brilliant to see everyone come out today. If there was more stuff like this around I think you’d have more young kids getting into golf. That’s where the future talent comes from, starting off with things like this.”
After watching all eight finals, Daniel Gathercole, director of marketing and communications at American Golf, said: “We’ve had so many compliments from the competitors over the past three days I can only thank the whole team at American Golf for the hard work they’ve put in. This weekend is what golf is all about and I’m delighted that American Golf is at the heart of it.”
All of the finals will be shown on Sky Sports across October and November.