Hooper holds his nerve



Mark Hooper of Rayleigh Golf Range won the Weston Homes plc/Bishop’s Stortford Classic for the second time in three years. He made light of a long-term back injury to produce a three-under-par second round of 68 to win by two clear shots from Jason Levermore of Channels Golf Club.

Yet it was a tighter finish than the score suggests. Hooper, five-under at the turn, was then three shots clear of his nearest rivals. He dropped shots at the 11th and 16th to leave the door ajar.

Levermore was only level par for the tournament after 11 holes. He eagled the par five 12th and birdied the 14th to put himself level with Hooper who was in the group in front.

Hooper held his nerve. He sunk a crucial long par putt on the 17th and secured his par at the testing final hole to end three under. Levermore, who also sunk a 15-foot par putt on the 17th  after finding a bunker just short of the green, was still joint leader standing on the last tee. A play-off looked likely but Levermore was wayward off the tee and ended with a double. 

Robert Leonard of Harpenden Common also had an opportunity to mount a challenge after a long putt produced an eagle at the 256-yard par-four 14th to place him one shot off the pace. The final holes proved difficult. He finished level for the tournament sharing fourth place with Barrie Trainor of Old Joe’s Golf Range in Suffolk.

Trainor had his chances. The former Irish PGA champion was three-under-par when he suffered a setback on the 13th when his approach shot rolled out of bounds behind the green. “I think I misjudged the wind,” he admitted.

However, Trainor was back in contention at the next hole when he chipped in from a greenside bunker for an eagle. Then, as it the first round, he started to drop shots and had to settle for being level for the tournament.

Overnight leader John Clarke, head professional at Berkhamsted Golf Club, started the day three-under-par and increased his advantage to four with a birdie at the second hole. The first round magic departed and he had just one more birdie but six dropped shots to slide down the leader board to fifth place.

Four players shared sixth place at two-over-par. They were Andrew Agnoli from the host club, Jason Groat from Denver Golf Club in Norfolk, Noel Quinn from Whipsnade Park and James Scade from Little Channels.

Scade started the day in second place at two under but he four-putted the seventh and three-putted the eighth to see his chance slip away. Quinn, last year’s winner when six-under-par, was steady but dropped three shots round the turn.

The event was covered by Sky Television cameras and the trophy was presented to Hooper by Michael Alden, group director of sponsors Weston Homes plc.

Levermore had not originally planned to take part in Order of Merit events this year because of the commitment of his new job as head professional at Channels Golf Club.

He said: “I found I could spare three days and now I hope to play in the next event, the  PGA East Region Championship at Essendon Golf Club on June 17 and 18,  so long as I can arrange cover for the shop.”

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