Devon’s Billy Hemstock beat the in-form Dave Coupland in a play off to claim his first victory of the season at the HotelPlanner.com PGA EuroPro Tour’s Nokia Masters at Mannings Heath Golf Club & Wine Estate in Sussex.
Poor weather on the second day at the Horsham-based venue forced the tournament to be reduced to just 36 holes. Coupland (Woodhall Spa) was among the few players who managed to complete their second rounds on Friday, meaning that he had to sit out the entire day’s play on Saturday to find out if someone would be able to match his eleven-under-par total, which comprised rounds of 66 and 67.
Hemstock, who shot an opening 68, started the final day seven shots back with just 11 holes to play, but a phenomenal run of seven birdies in ten holes, including a curling eight-foot birdie putt on the last, added up to a 65 and catapulted the Teignmouth player into a share of the lead alongside Coupland.
The duo then had to wait several nervous hours in the clubhouse as the chasing pack completed their second rounds. Marco Penge (Golf at Goodwood), Stiggy Hodgson (The Wisley), and Will Enefer (Retail Furniture Ltd) came close, getting to within one shot of the lead, but all had to settle for a share of third as the birdie putts failed to drop at the right time.
Despite not having hit a competitive shot all day, Coupland looked to be in the driving seat on the first play-off hole, as his tee shot on the par-four 18thfound the middle of the fairway, with around 140 yards to the pin. Hemstock found the rough a similar distance from the flag, but, with no clear sight of the pin, looked to be in trouble. However, the Devonshire player hit a superb approach onto the front edge of the elevated green, some 15 feet from the pin, while Coupland could only hit his approach to 20 feet. With no feel for the speed of the greens, Coupland hit his birdie putt six feet past the cup, and then, with Hemstock just two feet away, the Lincolnshire player missed his return putt, leaving his rival a simple two-footer to claim his first win in two years on the EuroPro Tour.
“It feels fantastic. I’m really chuffed with this win,” said a delighted Hemstock, whose £10,000 first prize moved him up to seventh in the Race To Desert Springs money list. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work this season, so it’s great to see some rewards.”
He added: “Right from the start, I holed a ten-foot birdie on the 8th, so that got my round under way. I think the fact I played a large part of my round today gave me an edge over Dave, who was made to sit around and wait for results to come in. Obviously, he was sitting in a very good position and I was fortunate to get a run of birdies today, and in the playoff, I felt comfortable with the conditions I faced.”
Highlights of the Nokia Masters will air on Sky Sports Golf on August 21.