Burnham & Berrow’s Lee Corfield remained cool at sun-baked Farleigh Golf Club in Surrey to join the likes of Tony Jacklin and Peter Alliss as winners of the PGA’s Assistants’ Championship.
The Somerset player’s margin of victory in the £32,000 Birdietime-supported competition was two shots, but that did not reflect the intensity of a duel with Hertfordshire’s James Watts, which lasted until the 17th hole.
Watts set off on the third and final round two pairings ahead of Corfield and four shots adrift of him, and chipped away at the tournament leader’s advantage. And by the time Corfield reached the turn, Watts had trimmed his lead to one. And when the pursuer birdied the 16th the pair were level.
But then disaster befell the challenger from Kingsway Golf Centre. A triple bogey at the par-four 17th left Corfield knowing what he had to do to claim the £5,000 first prize. Having opted for caution off the tee to avoid dunking his ball in the penal rough, he arrived at the 18th green with the comfort of having four putts for victory. He needed three, the ball defiantly perching on the hole’s rim following the second, and forcing him to tap it home for the win.
All of which added up to a one-under-par 71 and a 54-hole seven-under-par score of 209 for the assistant pro who is yet to embark on his PGA training. Reflecting on his victory, he said: “I’m very proud to win this trophy – there are some very famous names on there. This was my first Assistants’ event, so I’m delighted to win it. I start my PGA course in October, so I’ve got another three goes at this!”
There were times when the course on the cusp of the leafy Surrey suburbs, parched by the unrelenting sun, behaved like his home club. “The greens here are wonderful, like they are at Burnham,” he added. “But if you get out of line you have to run one in from a little bit short. And the rough was penal, which is similar to Burnham as well.”
Watts, by contrast, was left to ponder on what might have been after finishing second, a shot clear of the trio tied for third place – Adam Reid, Christopher Croucher and Elliott Groves.
Reid, who represents Corhampton Golf Club in Hampshire, had begun the day nine shots adrift of Corfield, and was nearer the back than the front of the 40 competitors who made the cut. However, as well as propelling him to within three strokes of the winner, his seven-under-par equalled the course record set by Isaac Simpson just 24 hours earlier.
Graham Roberts of Eaton Golf Club, Norfolk, was another with good cause to celebrate after recording the tournament’s solitary hole-in-one courtesy of a wedge at the par-three 136 yard 13th. Meanwhile, one of the two women to make the cut, Tiverton Golf Club’s Jessica Bradley, signed off with a final round of one-over for a 54-hole one-over-par score of 217 to finish 14th.
Leading scores:L Corfield (Burnham & Berrow) 209 (-7); J Watts (Kingsway) 211 (-5); A Reid (Corhampton), E Groves (Romsey), C Croucher (Singing Hills) 212 (-4); A Clough (PGolfCoaching@Pedham), Jamie Howarth (Davenport) 213 (-3).