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Amateur Championship: Title within grasp as clouds lift on Storm

By Bill Meredith

GRAEME STORM, the man who came to Ireland to prove his worth to England, is at Royal County Down.

Storm, 21, was dropped after one match against France - and it has grated ever since. Now, in front of selectors of every hue, including the Walker Cup variety, he has looked true international class in every sense.

He has not won the trophy yet, though, despite a shattering 7 and 6 semi-final victory over Ian Campbell, the Welsh international.

Standing in his way is another player ignored by the selectors recently -Aran Wainwright, who earned seven caps after winning the England Amateur title at Hoylake two years ago.

Storm has accounted for two members of the Walker Cup squad - Gary Wolstenholme and Colin Edwards, while Wainwright's scalps include the Sherry Cup winner, Marcel Siem, of Germany.

But it was Wainwright's exciting last-hole semi-final win over another fine young English player, Richard McEvoy, 19, from Essex, that set County Down alight last night.

As they stood on the 18th tee, all square, the heavens opened. Wainwright kept his cool, though, after a blocked drive. A seven-iron put him back on course and then a superb three-iron left him with a 30-foot putt for a birdie.

McEvoy, meanwhile, was in a deep tuft of grass to the left of the green. His chip was short; Wainwright's long putt weaved its way unerringly across the green, still glistening from the rain, and he was in the final.

He deserved it, too. After being two down on the 10th, he had three birdies in a row from the 11th to go one up. McEvoy squared the match again at the 17th, where Wainwright had a bogey five, but then came that marvellous putt on the last.

Jeff Toye, a Walker Cup selector, was most impressed with Storm. "Two of his matches, against Edwards and Matthew King, were superb," he said. Storm was two down twice on the back nine but fought back to win. Yesterday morning's 18th green victory over Edwards was golf at its very best.

Edwards, 35, with 73 England caps under his belt, was one up and two-under-par at the turn but a bogey five at the 11th cost him the lead. It stayed level until the 17th hole when, for once, Edwards's drive strayed off the fairway and he eventually conceded the hole.

Edwards appeared to have taken the match to the 19th when he holed a long, long putt on the final green but Storm took a deep breath and put away his own six-footer for the match. "I knew Colin would get his birdie," Storm said, "and I was prepared for it."

Storm has stamina as well as style and receives wonderful support from his mother, Jane, who has caddied for him throughout the championship. "I keep quiet and just hand him the clubs," she says. But there is a lot more to it than that. A smile of encouragement, a raised eyebrow, a pat on the back -they have all helped to keep Storm on the right path this week.

He has a fine golfing pedigree, too. His mother was a keen player in her youth, while his grandfather still plays off single figures at Hartlepool - and he is 72.

After his strenuous battle against Edwards, Storm was prepared for another tough tussle against Campbell in the semi-final, but the young Welshman never got to grips with his game. Storm won the first with a birdie four and was six up by the turn before winning on the 12th green.

Earlier, Campbell had looked a class act in ruining the chances of the local Irish favourite, Patrick Gribben, the European champion and a member of the Walker Cup squad. Gribben had reached the last eight with some

glorious golf but Campbell started with a birdie, had an eagle two on the 474-yard third and was two up at the turn, out in 33.

Gribben, getting some wonderful support despite the heavy showers, fought back to be only one down by the 13th but Campbell won the 14th and held on for a comfortable 3 and 2 win. The damp Irish army departed, disappointed but full of praise for Campbell's performance.

Details

AMATEUR CH'SHIP (Royal County Down).-Qtr-finals: I Campbell (Marlborough) bt P Gribben (Warrenpoint) 3 and 2; G Storm (Wynyard) bt C Edwards (Bath) 1 hole; R McEvoy (Thorpe Hall) bt G Havret (France) 5 and 4; A Wainwright (Garforth) bt M Siem (Germany) 2 and 1.

Semi-finals: Storm bt Campbell 7 & 6; Wainwright bt McEvoy 1 hole.

Electronic Telegraph 5th June 1999