Thursday, May 10, 2018

AYRSHIRE MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP - Fourth title win in eight years for Michael Smyth

2018 Ayrshire Matchplay Champion
Michael Smyth
Michael Smyth (Royal Troon) won the Ayrshire Matchplay Championship at Rowallan Castle Golf Club on Thursday, 10th May, to take the trophy and title for the fourth time in eight years.

Smyth was appearing in his fifth final since 2011 and was up against Shaun Hedger (West Kilbride) who was appearing in the final for the first time.

The match, refereed by Past President Iain Harvey, began with the players halving the opening hole in par fours but Smyth soon took the lead with a par three at the second after Hedger lost a ball in or around the front left greenside bunker.

Smyth extended his advantage to two holes at the third with a birdie four, chipping and putting from just short of the green whilst hedger, who had bunkered his second shot, played an excellent sand shot to three feet from the hole, only to miss his birdie attempt to half the hole.

At the short fifth hole both players were a distance from the hole in one and Hedger putted up first, with his bold effort running five veet past. Smyth's approach putt stopped three feet from the hole but hedger bravely holed his putt for a par three whilst Smyth's effort stayed above ground, and the deficit in the match was reduced to a single hole.

The finalists Michael Smyth & Shaun Hedger
with match referee Iain Harvey
Smyth restored his two hole lead at the seventh when Hedger three putted the green for a bogey five but Hedger struck back again at the eighth, his fifteen foot birdie putt just missing though he still won the hole after Smyth's par putt from six feed failed to drop.

In a match which swung regularly for and away from the two finalists, Smyth again restored his two hole lead as they turned for home, taking the ninth with  a birdie four after Hedger struggled to negotiate the hole in regulation figures.

At the tenth a par three was enough for hedger to reduce the defecit to one again, but in keeping with the pattern of the match, Smyth's two hole lead was restored following a concession by Hedger at the eleventh.

The 2018 champion at Rowallan Castle
From the twelfth hole through to the fifteenth, both players had chances to alter the match score but ultimately all four holes were halved in pars, leaving Smyth two holes ahead with three to play.

At the 581 yard par five sixteenth both players safely found the fairway from the tee but whilst Smyth played conservatively down the left and short of the green Hedger, playing second, saw his approach drift right and, although it appeared to carry the pond short of the green, the ball could not be found.

With Smyth safely on the green in three, Hedger returned to the area his second shot had been played from, but his second attempt fell into the  pond on the right, prompting a concession of the hole and the match to Michael Smyth who took the title with a 3 & 2 victory.

Ayrshire Golf Association President John Rushbury
with the winner Michael Smyth
At the conclusion of the match Ayrshire Golf Association President John Rushbury presented vouchers to both players before handing over the trophy and commemorative medal to the 2018 winner Michael Smyth.

With his 2018 success adding to his wins in 2011, 2013 and 2015 Smyth moves ahead of two other three time winners of the title, Alex Gourlay (Irvine) and Craig Hamilton (Ballochmyle), though he still trails Leslie Crawford (Kilmarnock Barassie) who won the title seven times between 1970 and 1991.

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