The 2014 Lytham Trophy Reports
The strength and depth of the field for the 2014 Lytham Trophy was indicated by the nationalities of those who survived the ballot. As well as players from the four Home Countries, there were entrants from seventeen other countries - France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, Austria, South Africa, Canada, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Norway and the Czech Republic. After the first round, the top of the leader board reflected this spread. Out on his own after a 69 was Hurly Long of Germany with the Slovenian Tim Gornick one shot back. On 71 were six players with the European dimension strongly represented by Matthias Eggenberger of Switzerland, Darius Van Driel of The Netherlands, Marcus Kinhult of Sweden and Niklas Noergaard Moeller of Denmark. From this island were Harry Casey of Enfield and Mark Young of Longridge.
As the Walker Cup is to be played here in 2015, the selectors were out watching the hopefuls and Paul Kinnear of Formby did himself no harm with a steady 72 as did Toby Tree of Goodwood. Last year's runner up Irish player Jack Hume was tucked in with a 74 after his recent success in the West of Ireland, but Reeve Whitson's 76 left him with work to do. Jimmy Mullen of Royal North Devon was on the same mark.
For today's report it is a matter of forget about the scores and enjoy a moment of Ballesteros magic, courtesy of the young Javier. Fittingly this came at the sixteenth hole where his father Seve conjured up two memorable moments. In 1979 Seve followed the exhortation of former Open Champion Roberto de Vicenzo to 'play from the heart'. This led to a wild drive at the sixteenth after which his ball was under a car. In the absence of the driver a free drop followed from where an unlikely birdie three emerged. In 1988 Seve was involved in a memorable shoot-out with Nick Price, with both men playing at their best. At this hole Seve feathered in a nine iron second shot to within a few inches of the hole and his third Open was secured. The club used is exhibited in the Clubhouse.
Those of you familiar with the course of today will know that thirty yards off the right edge of the fairway at drive distance there is a lonely bunker festooned with marram grass within and around. Whilst directly in line from the tee to the green it is rarely visited by the club golfer. In the three ball concerned all three hit their drives straight at the green. The other two, last year's winner Albert Eckhardt and the Scot Daniel Young just carried this bunker, but Javier found his ball lying cleanly in it with a bank of marram grass facing him. At first he entered the hazard with a wedge and considered options. He changed his club for a seven iron. You could see what he envisaged - picking the ball cleanly a low pitch and run would drop ten yards short of the green, run over the shoulder of the bunker guarding the front right of the green and run down towards the flag. Any shot other than perfect would plunge into the marram grass a few feet in front of him, probably never to be seen again. Dream became reality and his ball finished twelve feet from the hole. Exquisite.
Meanwhile the German Hurly Long had a second 69 to be three clear of Jack McDonald, who was runner up in the Amateur at Hillside a couple of years ago, Thriston Lawrence of South Africa and Harry Casey of Enfield Golf Club
The final round of the 2014 Lytham Trophy was one of compelling drama. Hurly Long of Germany had followed his opening pair of 69s with a commendable 71 and after five holes of the last round had a four shot lead on the field. He played steadily until the twelfth where at the par three he ran up a six after struggles in a bunker. Worse was to follow at the easiest hole on the course when he had another six at the thirteenth. Five over on those two holes and another dropped at the fifteenth undid the good of a birdie at the fourteenth. The outcome was a sickening 77 which left him finishing in sixth place.
Scot Bradley Neil had an exceptional last day with a 68 and a 69 which swept him to +3 and for a while the lead not only in the clubhouse but also on the course. He came in well over an hour before the last pair. Then Darius Van Driel drew level with Neil with a birdie on the thirteen before pitching to within a yard of the hole at the last for another birdie and a finish on +2. For some time Van Driel looked a likely winner until Thriston Lawrence had a birdie on the 16th to draw level. Whilst the Dutch player went to warm up for a possible play off Lawrence holed an outrageous putt on the next hole and after a steady par at the last was the winner on 281 which is +1.
Lawrence had announced his talents already by winning the South African Amateur for two consecutive years. What made this even more remarkable is that he is now only seventeen. He became not only the first South African winner of the Lytham Trophy but also the youngest ever.