Thursday, May 11, 2017

AYRSHIRE MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP - Hamilton and Johnston win through to Thursday's final

Craig Hamilton (Ballochmyle) and Jim Johnston (Ayr Belleisle) will contest the final of the Ayrshire Matchplay Championship on Thursday evening, 11th May, at Prestwick Golf Club, following their victories in the two semi final matches played on Wednesday evening.

Craig Hamilton and John Shanks
with match referee Mike Hazlewood

The first semi final saw Hamilton, who won the title in 2008 and 2014 take on the defending champion John Shanks (Irvine), who won the title for the first time last year at Western Gailes.

In a tight match, it was Shanks who took the early lead with a birdie two at the second, but a par five at the third was enough for Hamilton to square the match before the players halved the next six holes to turn for home all square.

Hamilton went ahead for the first time in the match with a par four at the long tenth hole but the match was squared again a hole later when a par three was good enough for Shanks to win.

Hamilton hit back immediately with a winning birdie four at the twelfth which heralded the start of a superb run of scoring from both players over the closing six holes which saw them matching each other with pars at the difficult thirteenth followed by birdie threes at every hole from the fourteenth through to the sixteenth before they halved the penultimate hole in fives to leave Hamilton one ahead with one to play.

At the closing hole, Hamilton played up to within a couple of feed from the hole in two whilst Shanks was just off the back left corner of the green with his tee shot. Facing a very difficult shot down the slope, Shanks' attempt ran six feet past the hole and when he missed his birdie effort from there, he conceded the hole, and the match, to Hamilton, for a two hole victory.

Jim Johnston and Greg Watson
with match referee Ricky Magee
The second semi final featured Johnston and Greg Watson (West Kilbride) both of whom were bidding for their first county title and their first appearance in the final of the Ayrshire Matchplay Championship.

Watson took the lead at the first, opening with a birdie three but a bogey from him at the third allowed Johnston to square the match at an early stage.

Watson restored his lead with a par three at the fifth hole, but again he was pegged back a couple of holes later when Johnston had a winning par four at the seventh, and the players closed out the half with halves in par fours and birdie threes at the next two holes to turn for home all square.

A par four at the tenth was enough for Johnston to edge ahead in the match for the first time, only for Watson to hit back immediately with a birdie two at the eleventh before the players halved the twelfth in birdies and the thirteenth in par fours to leave the match all square with five to play.

At the fourteenth both players found the green in two. Watson putted first from beyond the hole but saw his put slip just past the left edge of the hole. Facing a slightly shorter put from short of the hole, Johnston read the slight right to left put well and saw his ball drop in for a winning birdie three to go one ahead in the match.

At the fifteenth, par was good enough for Johnston to extend his lead to two holes but watson drove the green at the 290 yard sixteenth to set up a winning birdie three to reduce the deficit to one hole as the players moved to the seventeenth.

At the seventeenth, Johnston seized his opportunity, securing a winning birdie three to win the tie by 2 & 1 and take his place in the final of the competition.

The final will take place, again at Prestwick Golf Club, on Thursday evening, 11th May, teeing off at 5.00 p.m.

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