03 Aug 19
Michael Bullen prevailed in a play-off to win the PGA Assistants’ Championship at Pleasington Golf Club and join a distinguished band that includes two-time major winner Tony Jacklin.
Ryder Cup captains Dai Rees and Harry Weetman as well as the Voice of Golf, Peter Alliss, are also members of the fraternity.
History, however, does not relate the circumstances in which they won The PGA’s longest running tournament.
The chances are none had to negotiate the hurdles laid in Bullen’s path by Mother Nature at her most malevolent and, in the final round, his rivals.
In common with the other 119 in the field, he had to endure rounds delayed or interrupted by torrential rain and resumed on the following day.
In Bullen’s case, he had to complete the final six holes of the second round before embarking on his last negotiation of a course in pristine condition that is as challenging as it is easy on the eye.
Eighteen holes later, the year three Assistant from Rustington Golf Centre, Sussex, then had to engage in a sudden death play-off with Billy Hemstock, a scenario that, given what had gone before, was awash with irony.
Having employed a shotgun start for the final round and commenced play an hour early on successive days to ensure the Birdietime-sponsored tournament was contested over its scheduled 54-holes, extra ones were needed to determine the destiny of the trophy and £5,000 winner’s cheque.
Two were required. The first was halved, not so the second. With Hemstock missing the green with his approach and then chipping to within four-feet, Bullen held his nerve to sink his 12-foot putt for a birdie and victory.
The calmness with which he delivered the coup de grace was at odds with the way the final round had played out. At various points Christopher Croucher, Hemstock, Christopher Blunden as well as Bullen looked likely winners.
Two double bogeys on the back nine did for Croucher, likewise a double bogey, bogey finish for Blunden. Meanwhile, thoughts of a play-off involving Hemstock were fanciful when he birdied five of the first six holes to be 12-under for the tournament.
A double bogey at the par five ninth, however, plus two more dropped shots on the way home trimmed his score to eight under, a total matched by Bullen when he birdied his final hole, the par-four first.
In addition to the prize money and having his name engraved alongside those illustrious predecessors, Bullen will go to Finland to play golf with the tournament’s sponsors, compete in the PGA’s end of season Play-Offs and the Australian PGA Futures Championship.
All of which, aside from the financial reward, were not on the 26-year-old’s radar.
“They’re great prizes,” he said. “I’ve not been to Finland or Australia so that’s a real bonus. If I’d known about them I’d have been very nervous standing over that putt.
“I was a little bit tense at the end – I’ve played Bill in a play-off before so I was more comfortable than I normally would be. But even though I know Bill fairly well it was still a nervy finish.
“It was a long day and it’s been a long week. The wind got up towards the end as well. It was tricky but I dug in there and played really well all week. I’m chuffed to bits.”
Leading scores: M Bullen (Rustington Golf Centre)*, W Hemstock (Roehampton Club) 205 (-8); C Croucher (Cottesmore Golf Club) , J Hunter (Broadstone Golf Club), C Smith (Pike Hills Golf Club), R Bridges (Castle Golf Club) 207 (-6)
The full list of scores can be accessed via this link:
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