England (East) Region
16 Jun 17
Evergreen Steve Cipa (South Essex Golf Centre) underlined that he’s still a class act with a gutsy one-shot victory in the London Open at West Essex Golf Club.
Cipa, 57, made a superb birdie at the final hole to edge out two European Tour winners Simon Khan and Raymond Russell (Centurion Club).
His 4-iron approach to the 18th finished just off the back of the green but he produced an exquisite chip before knocking in an 18-inch putt for the victory.
After a final day in which blustery winds caused the field plenty of problems, Cipa was the only player to break par for the tournament as he finished on a one-under total after rounds of 69 and 70.
He said: “It’s been a long time since I’ve figured in an East region Order of Merit event – the last I won was at Bishop’s Stortford in 2010. So, it’s a fantastic feeling.
“The last couple of months I’ve been in very steady form – nothing spectacular but I’m in a good place mentally.
“It has been a tough few years but I seem to have levelled out and just taking everything as it comes rather than getting too emotional on the golf course.”
Cipa played some brilliant golf on the final day as the challenges of overnight leader Rob Coles (Maylands G&CC) and Russell faltered.
He hit an amazing draw with a 6-iron from the trees to help rescue par on the ninth before a deft chip-in on the 11th drew him to within a shot of the lead. Cipa then conjured up an equally fine shot from a greenside trap at the next to keep him in the hunt.
Coles suffered a major stroke of misfortune on 13 when inadvertently grounding his club in a fairway bunker, having knocked against an overhanging branch. That resulted in a two-stroke penalty and more problems followed at the 15th and 16th.
Russell’s challenge also tailed off down the stretch and it looked as if Khan – who produced the round of the day – may defend the title he won 12 months earlier.
The 2010 BMW PGA champion got up and down at the last for birdie and signed for a 68, posting a clubhouse total of level par.
Russell could only par the closing par-5 and the door was open for Cipa, who duly took his chance.
Cipa added: “Conditions were very tough over the two days. It was just really a matter of staying in the moment, being patient and trying to enjoy it.”
Khan, who returns to the European Tour for the BMW International Open near Munich next week, was upbeat despite two costly three-putts at 16 and 17.
He said: “I enjoyed coming back and playing. Like I said last year, it’s tricky. We don’t play courses like this much.
“You’ve got to be straight, you’ve got to be in position. Some holes, you miss it by a yard or two and you are in trouble.
“It has been good again. I’m quite happy with how I’m playing – I hit the ball really well today in tough weather so that bodes well.”
Former European Tour player Andrew Marshall (Bawburgh) – playing in his first East region Order of Merit tournament was tied fourth, alongside Darren Charlton (Dunstable Downs).
Coles, who won the Order of Merit crown in 2016, eventually finished sixth.
The second Order of Merit event in 2017 takes place at Bentley Golf Club on June 21-22.