Wednesday, May 08, 2024

AYRSHIRE MEN'S MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP - Aitken and Broadfoot through to the final after two epic semi final matches at Rowallan Castle

Cameron Aitken (Largs) and Harvey Broadfoot (Royal Troon) will contest the final of the Lomond Property sponsored Ayrshire Men's Matchplay Championship on Thursday evening after the completion of two epic semi final matches at Rowallan Castle Golf Club on Wednesday the 8th of May. 

The first semi final on the course pitched Aitken, the runner up in last years Ayrshire Men's Champin of Champions Trophy competition, against former Scottish internationalist Steven McEwan (Caprington).

McEwan set the early pace, taking the opening three holes, but Aitken steadied things and a ten foot winning putt at the sixth was enough to reduce the match defecit to one hole, before Aitken chipped in for a winning birdie at the seventh hole to level the match.

A good recovery from a greenside bunker at the eighth helped McEwan to half rthe hole and the ninth was also shared, with the players turning for home all square.

At the tenth McEwan pulled, and lost, his tee shot, prompting a concession to Aitken who went ahead in the match for the first time. Aitken remained ahead and by the sixteenth he had increased his lead to two holes, with two remaining. 

McEwan was not giving in however, and an excellent tee shot to four feet from the hole at the seventeenth gave him a chance to take the tie to the last. Having missed the green to the right from the tee, Aitken chipped ten feet past the hole but bravely holed his par put to put pressure on McEwan. McEwan however showed his mettle, holing his putt for a wining birdie two to take the tie to the final hole.

At the par five eighteenth, McEwan was first to play the second shot and produced an excellent fairway wood shot which came to rest just eight feet from the hole, while Aitken found the front edge of the green in two. Aitken putted up close but again McEwan drew on all his experience, holing an excellent putt for a winning eagle three to take the tie into extra holes.

Rowallan Casle's unique ninteenth hole, a 155 yard par three constructed by Colin Montgomerie especially for the purpose of play offs, then moved to centre stage, in a semi final where the players would ultimately complete the hole four times before a winner was declared.

The play off began with McEwan putting is tee shot four feet from the hole, just above and to the left of the cup, while Aitken finished about ten feet behind, and to the right of the pin. Aitken's birdie effort missed the hole to the right, but McEwan's birdie effort from four feet clipped the left edge of the hole but failed to drop, and the two players returned to the tee.

At the second sudden death hole McEwan's tee shot found the front of the green, some 60 feet from the flaag, while Aitken was unfortunate to see his tee shot pitch into the slope on the green just short of the flag and spin back down the slope to 30 feet. With Aitken safely in in three, McEwan holed a brave four foot putt to take the match to the 21st hole.

McEwan's tee shot at the third extra hole finished 20 feet beyond the hole while Aitken was a little closer, to the left of the pin. McEwan's birdie effort hit the hole but spun out and despite a good putt, Aitken's birdie effort pulled up agonisingly two inches to the left of the cup.

Back to the tee the players went for a fourth time and McEwan again found the greeen, his ball coming to rest some 35 feet to the left of the hole. It was then that Aitken played the most decisive shot of the match, almost holing his tee shot which came to rest a mere eighteen inches from the hole, which prompted a conceded birdie two by McEwan. McEwan needed to hole his putt to keep the game alive but depite a great effort his putt slipped past the hole and remained above ground, and the place in the final was Aitken's after the 22nd hole of the match.

In the other semi final, 2016 trophy winner John Shanks (Irvine) faced former Ayrshoire Boys' Champion Harvey Broadfoot (Royal Troon) who was appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time.

The experienced Shanks took the early initiative, forging a two hole lead after six holes. At the eighth Broadfoot had a chance to reduce the defecit to one, but his four foot birdie putt slipped past the hole, which contributed to Shanks maintaining his two hole advantage at the turn.

Broadfoot stormed back into the match early in the inward half, winning the tenth then taking the eleventh with a good fifteen foot putt for a three to square the tie, before going ahead in the match for the first time with a birdie three at the thirteenth. Shanks however turned the match around in the next four holes to take a single hole lead over Broadfoot to the final hole.

At the final hole Shanks missed the green to the left in two while Broadfoot played an excellent second to within six feet of the hole. An uncharacteristically short chip by Shanks, followed by a missed putt, prompted a concession of the hole to broadfoot, and like the other semi final tie the players proceeded to the par three nineteenth hole to begin a sudden death play off for a place in the final.

Broafoot hit an excellent tee shot to four feet short of the hole while Shanks' effort finished eighteen feet high and left of the hole. Despite an excellent effort, Shanks saw his birdie effort drop just to the right of the hole on the low side, and Broadfoot followed up by holing his four foot birdie putt to win the tie at the nineteenth hole and take his place in Thursday night's final.

The final on Thursday evening, betwen the two first time finalists in the competition, will tee off at  around 5.00 p.m. 

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