Saturday, August 10, 2013

AYRSHIRE CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS - McEwan retains county title

Champion again - Steven McEwan
The 2013 Ayrshire Champion Of Champions Trophy competition came to an exciting conclusion on Friday evening, 9th August, when the final was played over the championship course at Royal Troon.

The final between title holder Steven McEwan, a Honorary member of Caprington GC who also plays out of Loudoun Gowf Club, and Craig Hamilton of Ballochmyle was the culmination of a season’s competition which saw ***** champions from Ayrshire Golf association member clubs compete in the scratch matchplay competition.

 In the event, the final went all the way to the final green until the destination of the title was decided, with Steven McEwan retaining the trophy with a one hole victory, becoming the 5th player to do so, following Jim Spiers of Annanhill (1986, 1987), Kevin Lammie of Troon Welbeck (1993, 1994), David Glass (Prestwick St Cuthbert) 1996, 1997), and Tommy McInally of Loudoun who achieved the feat twice (2003, 2004, 2005 & 2009, 2010). 
The finalists
Steven McEwan & Craig Hamilton

The final began in warm but breezy conditions, and Craig Hamilton had the better of the earlier exchanges, taking the lead with a par four at the second after Steven Mcewan found a greenside bunker with his approach.

Hamilton looked favourite to take the 560 yard par five fourth hole after a colossal drive, but his second shot found a difficult lie in a greenside bunker and this, compounded by a three putt, allowed McEwan to half the hole in bogeys, however at the 210 yard par three fifth hole, Hamilton struck his tee shot to within four feet of the hole which he converted to a winning birdie two to go two up in the match.

At the long par 5 sixth, Hamilton was bunkered short of the green in 2 and could only manage a par, whilst McEwan, short of the green in 2, chipped up to four feet from the hole and converted for a winning birdie to reduce the deficit to one hole.

Hamilton looked favourite at the seventh after McEwan found heavy rough on the right from the tee, but Hamilton failed to press home the advantage, the hole being halved in five, and Hamilton remained one up.

Steven McEwan just missed his birdie effort on the fifth
At the short eighth hole, The Postage Stamp, both players missed the green from the tee  and Mcewan had a ten foot putt for par to square the match but his putt just slipped past the hole and Hamilton remained one ahead.

At the closing hole in the outward half, McEwan played two superb shots to six feet from the flag as Hamilton missed the green on the right with his approach, and McEwan holed his putt for an excellent birdie three to square the match as the players turned into the wind in the inward nine.

With Hamilton having perhaps the better opportunities in the outward half, the momentum appeared to shift in McEwan’s favour following his birdie at the ninth, and a chil and putt from the front of the tenth green for par, which Hamilton could not match, took McEwan into the lead in the match for the first time. Mcewan’s lead was increased to two holes at the eleventh when he recovered better after both players found trouble from the tee, a bogey five and the hole being conceded by Hamilton after some indifferent short game play from the Ballochmyle player on the approach to the green.
Play at the 11th green

The twelfth hole was halved in bogey fives after both players failed to get up and down from just off the green and after McEwan found trouble from the thirteenth tee, Hamilton secured a winning par four with a three foot putt to reduce the deficit to one hole.

Both players missed the fourteenth green from the tee. Mcewan, with the easier approach, chipped up to six feet whilst Hamilton, with a difficult chip across the back of a bunker, did well to get his shot to within ten feet of the hole. Hamilton followed his good chip with an excellent putt for a three and when Mcewan’s effort remained above ground, the match returned to all square, with four holes to play.

Craig Hamilton's approach to the seventh
The longer of the two players from the tee, Hamilton did very well to reach the fifteenth green in two whilst McEwan found himself in a bunker in two, some forty yards from the pin. The former Scotland internationalist drew on all his skill and experience, hitting his bunker shot to within four feet of the hole. Hamilton’s first effort ran six feet past and when he missed the return, McEwan had a four foot put to restore his lead in the tie. Unfortunately for the defending champion, he pulled the putt left and the match remained all square.  

The turning point in the match came at the sixteenth when both players missed the green with their approach shots, Hamilton finding a bunker with his second and coming up short in three whilst McEwan’s third shot drifted into the left greenside bunker. Hamilton chipped up to around  three feet in four and, for the second hole in a row, McEwan played a superb bunker shot to just inside Hamilton’s in four. A half in fives looked likely but Hamilton pulled his putt left and it slipped past, whist McEwan successfully converted his par put to go one ahead with two holes to play.

At the penultimate hole, a 222 yard par three, McEwan found the front right greenside bunker from the tee whilst Hamilton’s effort came to rest just short of the green. Hamilton chipped up to three feet whilst McEwan, for the third hole in a row, showed his superb bunker play with en excellent recovery shot to four feet which he duly converted into a par, leaving Hamilton needing to hole his putt to keep the match alive, which he did successfully.

With McEwan holding a one hole advantage, both players successfully negotiated the tee shot at the final hole, in increasingly cool and breezy conditions, and whilst Mcewan’s approach came to rest short and left of the green, Hamilton’s effort ran just off the right side of the green, around pin high. McEwan chipped up to six feet from the hole with Hamilton’s effort coming to rest some two feet closer. Needing to hole his par putt to ensure a second successive title, McEwan struck a good putt which took a small left to right borrow as it approached the hole and dropped dead centre ito the cup, to secure the title with a one hole victory.
The presentations

The match was played in the most sporting  atmosphere, in front of a large crowd of supporters of both players, and at the conclusion of play the Ayrshire Golf Association Vice President, James McMurdo, thanked Royal Troon  for hosting the semi finals and final once again and  the competitors and spectators for their contribution to a fitting and enjoyable finals, before concluding proceedings by presenting prizes to both finalists and returning the Champion Of Champions trophy to the custody of Steven McEwan for a second successive year.

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