Thursday, May 11, 2023

AYRSHIRE MEN'S MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP - Thomas & Morton through to the final

The final of the 2023 Ayrshire Men's Matchplay Championship at Loudoun Gowf Club on Thursday the 11th of May will be between
Kevin Thomas (Prestwick St Cuthbert) and Blair Morton (Royal Troon), after the two semi final matches were completed on Wednesday evening.

In the first semi final Kevin Thomas was up against Barry O'Rourke (Caprington). It was Thomas who had the early advantage, taking a two hole lead after three, but O'Rourke fought back to level the tie, winning the seventh and then holing  an 8 foot birdie putt at the eighth to take his second successive hole.
Kevin Thomas & Barry O'Rourke

At the ninth Thomas was on the right edge of the fairway with his tee shot and hampered by overhanging trees he could only find the front part of the green in two, and two putted for a four. A slack approach shot from the middle of the fairway by O'Rourke found the right greenside bunker, costing him a bogey five and leaving him one hole down at the turn.

After both players missed the green at the tenth, a fluffed chip cost O'Rourke a bogey four and Thomas increased his lead to two holes, chipping to within a couple of feet and holing for a winning par three.

The twelfth was halved in par fours but Thomas increased his lead to three holes with a regulation par at the thirteenth, despite being struck on the left arm by a drive from a player playing the following hole, after the thirteenth proved particularly unlucky for O'Rourke, who found his tee shot come to rest directly behind a tree from where he could only play left of the green bu just failed in his attempt to get up and down for a par.

At the fourteenth Thomas' lead was increased to four holes after O'Rourke missed the fairway on the left from the tee and was again hampered by the trees, leaving him only able to play up short and left of the green, from where he failed to rescue his par four. Thomas' second was through the green and although his pitch pulled up 12 feet short of the hole, he holed his put for a winning par four.

At the fifteenth, which proved to be the final hole of the match, Thomas was on the right side of the fairway from the tee, and found the lower front part of the green with his second. O'Rourke had an approach shot from around 80 yards and saw his ball finish just eight feet past the hole. Thomas' birdie putt just missed on the left, and a par four was conceded, but O'Rourke's birdie effort, to keep the match alive, missed to the right and the place in the final was secured by Kevin Thomas with a 4 & 3 victory. 

In the second semi final Blair Morton faced Aidan Long (Ayr Belleisle).

Aidan Long & Blair Morton

Morton raced into an early lead, taking four of the first five holes before Long reduced the deficit with a winning par four at the sixth hole following a slack chip and missed putt from Morton, and another win at the ninth hole to reduce the deficit to two holes at the turn.

At the tenth hole both players missed the green but whilst Morton chipped up from the front to 10 feet from the hole, Long's chip from the back of the green pulled up 12 feet short. Putting first, Long's par putt missed and the error was compounded when Morton holed his effort for a winning par three to restore a three hole advantage, which was maintained until the fourteenth hole which Long won to reduce the deficit to two holes again.

The fifteenth was also halved, despite both players having good chances for birdie threes, and when the sixteenth was halved in threes Morton was dormie two. At the penultimate hole on the course, both players missed the green to the left and although long secured his par three, his hopes of taking the match further after seeing Morton's chip run 10 feet past the hole were dashed when Morton holed his par put for a 2 & 1 victory and a place in the final.

The final tees off on Thursday evening at Loudoun Gowf Club at just before 5.00 p.m.

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