The 2017 Lytham Trophy Reports
Flashbacks to 1926 as Jack Singh-Brar left the seventeenth tee in the fourth round, he must have felt as Bobby Jones did those ninety-one years earlier, for both pulled their tee shots into sand. Whilst Jones famously then hit the green, for Jack his problems continued as his brave second shot finished in an unpromising lie in a green side bunker. Meanwhile Charlie Strickland playing ahead had split the last fairway, as the two were level on nine over par. As Charlie stood over his pitch, a roar shook the air when Jack holed out from the bunker. Un-nerved the pitch ran to the back of the green from where the challenger three putted to finish on ten over and Jack was able to finish with a par to win by two shots.
The work done in the morning round set up the win, with a steady 72 that prevented others from closing the gap as only the 69 of William Whiteoak bettered par. For Singh-Brar two double bogies on the way out in the afternoon saw a slight wobble but then eight pars and the remarkable birdie on the seventeenth represented steady play under pressure.
Amateur champion Scott Gregory summed ups the feelings of the field after the bruising experience on the first day. Fresh from playing in the Masters at Augusta he commented that the course at Lytham was five to six shots harder. You can only feel sorry for the members who have to play that course week in, week out.
The Walker Cup selectors quietly folded up their tents and melted into the night, thankful that the 2017 Walker Cup match was not being played over a torrid links and was not being played this weekend. There was time enough for the squad and those on the fringes to recover their games and their sanity.
In the meantime there was a course to be played and two golfers showed how this should be done. After wobbling around the turn, Simon Richardson of Spalding had three consecutive birdies to come in with a 69 which left him in third place at four over par. Overnight leader Jack Singh-Brar did little wrong in his 73 to come in at one over par, level with Jeff Wright of Forres Golf Club, whose 67 was the only other score under par on the day.
The front nine was once more the problem, though not as severe as the previous day and Wright reached the turn one over par, thanks to two’s at the fifth and ninth. A further two at the twelfth and three more birdies on the way home gave him a back nine of 32.
Before heading home Marco Penge mirrored Colin Montgomerie’s record in The Open with a twenty shot difference between two consecutive rounds. A 74 after his opening 94 did little to help his cause. Of the Walker Cup squad, only Daniel Brown, Owen Edwards and David Boote made the cut.
2017 being a Walker Cup year, the Lytham Trophy provided the first opportunity for the squad to strut its stuff before the selectors, but the opportunity was missed by a wide margin. Of the members of the squad on show, David Boote, Owen Edwards and Bob McIntyre had 76’s, David Brown a 78, Colm Campbell, Craig Howie, Bradley Moore and Conor O’Rourke had 79’s and the rest floundered, with 80’s from Scott Gregory, Conor Syme, and last year’s winner Alfie Plant and 82’s from Alex Gleeson, Craig Ross and James Walker. Marco Penge had a bad day at the office, out in 54 with an eight at the third, seventh and eighth to turn in a miserable 54 shots and a round of 94. Los Angeles seems an unlikely call.
And all this on a dry sunny day but with an evil easterly breeze and a running course. Par might have been 70 but the SSS of 76 was increased to a CSS of a remarkable 79. Despite the quality of the field only three players bettered 74 and only two bettered 73.. Matthew Clark had a commendable 70 despite a seven at the eleventh. Someone forgot to tell Jack Singh-Brar how difficult the course was, so he went round on 68, with birdies at the fourth and sixth for an outward 32 against an average for the field of 41 and a placid back nine with seven pars, one bogey and one birdie. Downwind the eighteenth hole was, for a change, the easiest hole on the course and even gave one player a two.