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Neil Leads Scots To Victory In Spain

by Colin Callander - March 10, 2014

Scotland produced a stirring late charge to win the 2014 European Nations Cup in dramatic fashion at Sotogrande in southern Spain.

The Scots went into the final day five shots behind Italy and one shot adrift of Ireland but closing rounds of 72 from Bradley Neil and Jack McDonald and a 74 from Graeme Robertson saw them draw level with Italy on 875.

Both countries were asked to nominate one player for a title-deciding playoff.

The in-form 18-year-old Neil was Scotland’s choice, and he beat the Italian No. 1, Renato Paratore, winner of the recent Portuguese Amateur Championship, with a birdie at the second extra hole.

France, represented by Edgar Catherine, Paul Elissalde, Romain Langasque and Grégoire Schoeb, pipped an Irish squad comprising Jack Hume, Gary Hurley, Dermot McElroy and Cormac Sharvin on the same basis after both teams had finished the 72-hole event on 880 while Holland claimed fifth place on 887.

Defending champions England, represented by Ryan Evans, Matt Fitzpatrick, Paul Howard and Garrick Porteous – and chasing their fifth victory in six years – were a further 23 shots back in 10th place.

Bradley Neil

Scotland’s win was its first in the event since Scott Henry, Callum Macaulay, Wallace Booth and Keir Mc- Nicoll lifted the trophy back in 2008. It was a true team performance with Neil, McDonald, Robertson and Borrowman all contributing at least two scores to the cause during the four rounds.

Nevertheless, the star of the show was undoubtedly Neil, the reigning Scottish Boys’ champion from Blairgowrie, who carded rounds of 71, 71, 76 and 72 to post a 2-over-par aggregate and finish tied for second with Spain’s Mario Galiano in the concurrent individual event.

The individual winner was Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who followed in the footsteps of the likes of Rory Mc- Ilroy, Sergio García, Shane Lowry and compatriot Francesco Molinari by carding rounds of 74, 71, 72 and 70 to claim a three-shot victory on 1-under-par 287.

Holland’s Lars Keunen was fourth on 291 while Ireland’s Hume was a further shot back in fifth place. A French ladies’ team comprising Shannon Aubert, Mathilda Cappeliez and Anyssia Herbaut also came from behind to win the concurrent ladies’ team trophy for the second time in three years.

The French trio went into the last round in third place behind Spain and England but a 73 from Cappeliez and a 75 from Aubert saw them leapfrog their nearest rivals and finish three shots ahead of Natalia Escuriola, Ainhoa Olarra and Luna Sobrón from the host nation on 595.

A Danish trio made up of Nanna Madsen, Henriette Nielsen and Emily Pedersen climbed up to third place with closing rounds of 74 from Madsen and 76 from Pedersen. England dropped back to fourth with a disappointing final-day performance that saw national champion Sarah- Jane Boyd card a 79 and Gabby Cowley post an 81. Annabel Dimmock’s closing 81 was discarded.

The individual ladies’ event was won by Madsen, who carded scores of 76, 71, 73 and 74 to finish three shots ahead of Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela on 294. The next three places were claimed by Aubert, Escuriola and Dimmock.

Spain’s Daniel Berra became the first home player to win the Spanish International Men’s Amateur Championship in 11 years when he won this year’s championship on the La Reserva course at Sotogrande.

Berra followed in the footsteps of 2003 champion Gonzalo Fernández- Castaño after beating Austria’s Robin Goger by 4 and 3 in the 36-hole final and now will have the opportunity to compete against his predecessor and the other leading European Tour professionals at this year’s Spanish Open at PGA Catalunya.

The Spaniard’s win brought to an end a British and Irish stranglehold over the title that started in 2010, when Matt Haines beat Tommy Fleetwood in an all-English final and was extended when his compatriots Laurie Canter and Jack Hiluta won in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Ireland’s Reeve Whitson beat England’s Neil Raymond by 4 and 3 in last year’s final at La Manga.

The Irishman’s defence ended in disappointment when he missed out on a place in the match-play stages after shooting rounds of 78 and 75 to finish tied 58th in the stroke-play qualifier.

The qualifier was won by another Spaniard, Victor Pastor, who ired rounds of 73 and 66 to finish a single shot ahead of Italy’s Enrico Di Nitto and Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult on 5-under-par 139.

Ireland’s Rory McNamara (144), McElroy (146), Richard Bridges (147), Geoff Lenehan (147) and Sharvin (149), plus England’s Nick Marsh (145), Ashley Chesters (148), James McCormick (148) and Michael Saunders (149) all were among the 32 qualifiers for the match-play stages, but only Lenehen, McNamara, Marsh and McCormack made it through to the second round. Those four dropped out at that stage.

Sweden’s Linnea Ström went one better than last year when she stormed to victory in the 2014 Spanish Women’s International Amateur Championship at El Saler.

Twelve months ago the Swede finished runner-up to Denmark’s Pedersen but this time round she made amends when she overcame Spain’s Victoria Martinez, the English duo of Cowley and Alex Peters, and France’s Aubert before beating 17-year-old English teenager Dimmock by 2 and 1 in the final.

It proved to be a highly successful week for Ström because she also posted rounds of 74 and 71 to finish second behind Denmark’s Madsen in the 36-hole qualifier and at the same time led compatriots Emma Svensson and Christine Danielson to a single-shot victory against a Denmark team comprising Pedersen, Madsen and Julie Kristensen in the concurrent Nations Cup team event.

Dimmock was one of eight GB&I players to make it through to the match-play stages.

Scotland’s Alyson McKechin, Lauren Whyte and Eilidh Briggs all dropped out in the first round, while Ireland’s Paula Grant and English international Cowley lost in the second round before Peters and Ireland’s Chloe Ryan went out in the third round, beaten by Ström and France’s Herbaut, respectively.

This week the British golf season gets underway in its traditional fashion when the Sunningdale Foursomes is staged on both the Old and New courses at the majestic Surrey club.

The event is considered as the true rite of spring by many of Britain’s golfing cognoscenti and now in its 80th year it still attracts an impressive field made up of amateurs and professionals of both sexes.

The Sunningdale Foursomes is unusual in that it can pit a male professional and a female amateur against two male amateurs and to accommodate players of both sexes and codes club oficials have developed a unique handicap system under which male pros play off plus-1, male amateurs play off scratch, women professionals play off 2 and women amateurs are handed four shots.

Matches are played under full difference of the combined handicaps, which means a team comprising two male pros will have to give a total of six shots when up against two amateurs of different sexes and that can be an extremely onerous task in this much-maligned but misunderstood format.

The last male-and-female amateur pair to win the Sunningdale Foursomes was Greg Payne and Jess Wilcox in 2012. They return this year and will face a testing first-round match on the Old Course against Royal Wimbledon’s Richard Edginton and Daniel Gaunt from Burhill. Australian-born professional Gaunt and his partner have a handicap of plus-2, which means they will have to give five shots now that Payne has joined the professional ranks.

Payne and Wilcox were to be joined in this year’s field by 2003 and 2004 winners Ross Fisher and Simon Grifiths, but they elected to withdraw in the aftermath of Fisher winning last week’s Tshwane Open on the European Tour.

That is a shame but the 2008 and 2010 champions, Surrey professionals Craig Cowper and Neil Reilly, are having another tilt at the title as are 2002 champions John Kemp and Mark Wharton. Also returning are Steven Tiley and his partner, Ricki Neil-Jones, who battled all the way to last year’s final before losing on the 19th hole to Phil Archer and Sam Walker.

The Sunningdale Foursomes has been won in the past by the likes of Joyce Wethered and JSF Morrison, Michael Bonallack and Doug Sewell, Neil Coles and Ross Whitehead, Jess Donald and Peter Alliss, Peter Benka and Peter Oosterhuis, Clive Clark and Peter Butler, Ronan Rafferty and Roger Chapman, John O’Leary and Sam Torrance, Carl Mason and Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, Richard Boxall and Derrick Cooper, Luke Donald and Michael O’Connor as well as Fisher and Grifiths, and this year there is no shortage of illustrious names to whet the appetite of the event’s loyal supporters.

European Senior Tour players Barry Lane and Gary Wolstenholme are first out on the New Course on Tuesday morning while later in the day, 2013 Senior Tour No. 1 Paul Wesselingh and his son Ryan, and European Tour players Kevin Ferrie and Nick Dougherty will start their bids for the title over the same course.

On the Old Course, Sunningdale professional Keith Maxwell and former Chelsea and Milan footballer Andriy Shevchenko team up for a second year in a row. Another group guaranteed to draw the crowds comprises local members Tim Henman and Tim Crawley.

On the same course, former European Open champion Andrew Murray teams up with son Tom, a promising Challenge Tour player, where they will face Hertfordshire professionals James Ruebotham and Mike Moore. Former Volvo PGA champion Andrew Oldcorn and European Tour colleague Andrew Sherbourne, who reached the semifinals last year, are also starters, as are another tried-and-tested father-and-son combo, Pip and Jamie Elson, who lost to Fisher and Grifiths in the final in 2003.

This year’s event has attracted a particularly strong group of elite amateurs headed by world No. 2 and reigning US Amateur champion Fitzpatrick, who had to hotfoot it back from Spain, where he represented England in last week’s European Nations Cup, in order to partner Hallamshire club colleague Barry Downing for their first-round match against Saltford-based professionals Canter and Matt Stanford.

Elsewhere, young English internationals Marco Penge and Toby Tree team up to face 2012 runnersup Jamie Little and Liam Bond, while another intriguing first-round tie pits the in-form Dimmock and her partner, fellow Wentworth Club member Stuart Brown, against 2009 champion Stiggy Hodgson and former Wigan midfielder Jimmy Bullard, who tried but failed to earn playing privileges at last year’s Euro- Pro Tour Qualifying School.

Other leading amateurs in the Sunningdale field include English squad members Saunders, Joe Dean and Adam Chapman, and their Welsh counterpart, Ben Westgate. Royal Mid-Surrey member Inci Mehmet, who in 2012 became the youngest winner of the Surrey Ladies’ County Championship, aged just 15, is partnered by clubmate Oscar Granstrom-Livesey.

Reproduced with kind permission of Global Golf Post - Subscribe now for free


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