Tuesday, May 09, 2017

AYRSHIRE MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP - Title defence gets off to winning start for Shanks at Prestwick

Defending champion
John Shanks (Irvine)
Defending champion John Shanks (Irvine) got his title defence off to a winning start at Prestwick Golf Club on Monday 8th May with victory in his first round match in the 2017 competition.

Shanks, who qualified in fifteenth of the sixteenth places, played the second qualifier and Strokeplay Championship runner up Iain Brown (West Kilbride) in the opening round.

A bogey at the par three second from Brown allowed Shanks to take an early lead which he maintained through the early holes, despite taking to the water of Pow Burn in his bare feet to retrieve what he thought was his ball at the fourth before finding his own ball further up the hole and securing a half with a par four.

With the exception of the second, the players matched each other with pars over the first five holes, and birdies at the third, before Shanks increased his lead to three holes with winning par fours at the sixth and seventh and maintained the margin of his advantage to the turn.

Successive bogeys at the tenth and eleventh from Brown saw Shanks increase his lead to five holes and a birdie four at the long twelfth increased his advantage to dormie six.

To his credit, Brown did not capitulate easily, winning the thirteenth and fourteenth before securing a third successive hole with a birdie three at the fifteenth. A par four at the sixteenth however was only good enough for a half for Brown to give Shanks a 3 & 2 win.

In the quarter finals John Shanks will face Darren Mallinson (Irvine Ravenspark) after he ended the hopes of Robbie Muir (Kilmarnock Barassie) with a 4 & 3 win.

A winning par four at the first and a concession at the third saw Mallinson take an early two hole lead but the deficit was reduced for Muir when he was conceded the fourth by Mallinson who found trouble from the tee. A further concession to Muir at the seventh allowed him to square the match, only for Mallinson to take the closing two holes of the first nine to turn for home with a two hole advantage.

Masllinson's lead was increased to three at the eleventh and despite losing the twelfth he restored his three hole advantage at the thirteenth before seeing out the match two holes later, winning the fifteenth for a 4 & 3 win.

The new Ayrshire Strokeplay Champion Alan Connery (Irvine) led the field on Monday evening but it was his opponent, sixteenth qualifier Greg Watson (West Kilbride) who took the initiative in the tie to run out a 6 & 5 winner and end Connery's hopes of a championship double.

A par three at the second was enough to give Watson the lead, which was increased to two holes with a concession by Connery at the fourth. Successive par fours over the difficult stretch from the seventh to the ninth  saw Watson take all three holes to turn for home with a five hole lead.

A good par four at the tenth gave Connery the hole but Watson's five hole advantage was restored with a birdie two at the eleventh and extended to six holes with a winning par five at the twelfth before he closed out the match 6 & 5 at the following hole.

In the quarter finals Watson will take on Paul Denim (Loudoun) who defeated county boys team player Alyx Murray (Troon Welbeck) by 4 & 3 in their opening round tie.

A poor start from Murray saw him go three behind after three holes, after hitting his second at the opening hole out of bounds and following that with successive bogeys at the next two holes.

A par three at the fifth saw Murray reduce the advantage to two and he drew back to within one hole of Denim after winning the seventh with a par four.

A birdie three at the eight restored a two hole lead for Denim, which he maintained through the turn, only to see Murray claim the tenth with a birdie three to again pull back to within one hole of Denim.

Murray, who struggled to hole putts throughout the match, bogeyed the short eleventh to allow Denim to go two ahead again and a birdie four for Denim at the twelfth saw him go three ahead for the first time since the third green.

At the fourteenth, Denim took the hole with a par four to extend his lead to four holes and he closed out the match at the next for a 4 & 3 win.

Fourth qualifier Jim Johnston (Ayr Belleisle) faced Ben Gibson (Troon Welbeck) in the first round and took the lead with a n opening par four before losing the second and seventh holes to go behind in the match. A birdie three at the eighth and a winning par four at the ninth were enough for Johnston to turn the one hole deficit into a single hole lead at the turn.

The match was squared again at the tenth when Johnston took a bogey five but a par at the eleventh followed by a birdie four at the twelfth gave Johnston a two hole lead once again, and a double bogey six at the thirteenth from Gibson saw Johnston take a three hole advantage for the first time in the match.

Par figures over the next three holes were good enough for Johnston to see out the tie with a 4 & 2 win.

In Tuesday's quarter finals, Johnston will play Sandy Buchanan (Prestwick St Nicholas) following Buchanan's 3 & 1 win over Shaun Hedger (West Kilbride) in the opening round.

There was some impressive scoring in the tie, opening par fours being followed with a half in twos at the second, Buchanan holing from 45 feet before Hedger followed him in from 25 feet.

Buchanan was never behind in his first round tie, winning the third and fourth holes with another two successive birdies to go two up, before extending his lead to three with a par four at the difficult seventh. Hedger hit back with a winning birdie three at the eighth but Buchanan rstored his three hole lead with a fine par four at the ninth.

Three ahead with nine to play, Buchanan saw his lead reduced to one hole when Hedger won the eleventh and twelfth with a par and a  birdie, but restored a two hole lead with a winning par four at the thirteenth. The players exchanged the following two holes with winning pars and following a half in birdie threes at the sixteenth, Buchanan closed out the match by 3 & 1 when Hedger conceded defeat on the seventeenth green.

Andy Gibson (Irvine) booked his place in the quarter finals with a 3 & 1 win over third qualifier Stephen Spence (Royal Troon).

Two pars and a birdie over the opening three holes were good enough for Spence to establish a two hole advantage but a similar run of scoring by Gibson over the next three holes saw him square the match after six holes. A winning par four at the seventh saw Spence edge ahead once again, only to see Gibson square the match at the turn with a par four at the ninth.

Spence fell behind for the first time in the match at the tenth when Gibson secured a winning par four and a birdie four at the twelfth increased Gibson's advantage to two holes.

Spence hit back to take the thirteenth with a par four but a bogey five at the fifteenth from Spence restored Gibson's two hole lead. The sixteenth was halved ip par before Gibson closed out the match by 3 & 1 with a winning birdie three at the seventeenth.

Gibson's opponent in the quarter finals was decided in the final match on the course between two times champion Craig Hamilton (Ballochmyle) and Andy Brown (West Kilbride). In a tight match, Brown took the first hole with par and maintained his lead until the fifth when a par three was enough for Hamilton to square the tie.

A great run of scoring over the difficult closing three holes of the outward half from Hamilton saw his one under par figures give him three successive holes for a three hole advantage at the turn.

Brown hit back, winning the tenth with a par four and the long twelfth hole with a winning eagle three against Hamilton's birdie four to reduce the match score to one hole for Hamilton.

Hamilton's slim lead was maintained through fifteen holes and Brown squared the match for the first time since the sixth hole in spectacular style with his second winning eagle of the round at the par four sixteenth.

Hamilton however was not to be denied and he showed his matchplay prowess by taking the penultimate hole with a par four before closing out the match with a birdie three at the closing hole for a two hole victory.

The quarter final matches take place on Tuesday evening at Prestwick Gof Club, from 5.00 p.m.

The pairings for the quarter finals are :-

GREG WATSON (West Kilbride) Vs PAUL DENIM (Loudoun)

JIM JOHNSTON (Ayr Belleisle) Vs SANDY BUCHANAN (Prestwick St Nicholas)

JOHN SHANKS (Irvine) Vs DARREN MALLINSON (Irvine Ravenspark)

ANDY GIBSON (Irvine) Vs CRAIG HAMILTON (Ballochmyle)


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