Cort joins legends as he successfully defends title


Matthew Cort kept himself on course for an historic treble after becoming the first player in more than 60 years to retain the Powerade PGA Assistants' Championship in association with FootJoy.

The 37-year-old Rothley Park assistant became only third player after Ryder Cup legends Harry Weetman (1949 & 1950) and Dai Rees (1935 & 36) to retain the trophy.

In a Titanic tussle, the second year assistant overhauled Kevin Harper (Sidmouth) and Tom Murray (Didsbury Park), who finished in a share of second place, on a day of drama at a windswept East Sussex National.

Cort, who won last year after a sizzling final round 64, carded a more conservative one-under-par 71 to end the week at five-under.

That was enough to give him a two-shot cushion over his rivals and a bumper pack of rewards including a cheque for £5,000, a place in the end-of-season Titleist PGA Play Offs and a spot in the Australian Futures Championship, which Cort won last year.

"It's great feeling to defend the title. I've won two now, which is amazing really," he said.

"I came here to retain it and to win and I knew if I played to my game I would have a really good chance. Someone could have played better and run away with it but it's amazing how it has turned out. These are the times you have got to remember.

"Qualifying for the Play-Offs is a big deal. Last year I got through to Wentworth via them and I went there last month and just missed the cut by a shot, which at the time was hard to take. But winning here has given me another chance to get there. It's a massive boost.

"As for Australia I wasn't sure about that when I won last year. I knew I'd got Turkey with the Play-Offs and Australia seemed too far to go but I did and really enjoyed it. Now I've got to speak with the boss and get time off as I've got to go to defend it."

Cort's victory heaped extra disappointment on Harper as it is the third successive year the Devonian has had to settle for the runners-up spot.

Harper, who was playing in his final Assistants' Championship having completed the PGA foundation degree, was three shots clear of his rivals after the eighth but a triple bogey at the ninth brought him level with his rivals before a double at 13 handed Cort the initiative, which he seized.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Harper, who carded a two-over-par 74, reflected positively on his three years competing in the tournament.
He said: "No-one should be disappointed with finishing runner-up, but the sore point is it's three years in a row and I had a really good chance to win it this year.

"But it's been a great championship for me - all three years. I had the opportunity to go to Australia, where I finished second.

"It's been a great experience and great tournament. I love this place every time I come here I play well. It was another great tournament and I would have loved to have won, especially with the incentive of the Play-Offs that would have been a big thing for me then as you never know what could happen from that."

Harper, who picked up a cheque for £2,475, now intends to compete on the PGA Europro Tour as he looks to return to playing full time.

Joint runner-up Murray, son of European Tour winner Andrew Murray, also intends to focus on playing having also completed his studies.

This was his first attempt at the championship and he intends to use the experience after reflecting on a tough day.

Murray, who also shot 74 and collected a cheque for £2,475, said: "It was a grind because of the weather and it was very difficult to be honest. I didn't play my absolute best and was a little bit short of where I wanted to be.

"The putts didn't drop for me and I had a little bit of bad luck. But it's been a good battle out there. Watching the scoreboards on the way round there were always only a couple of shots in it all the way round.

"But I can take the experience away with me as it's always good to be in contention."

Wales' Cennydd Mills (Ridgeway Golf Club) was the only other player under par. He closed with a 71 to finish one-under for the week.

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