Lessons pay off as pair earn shot at Gleneagles glory


2606Lombard Hendon

A golfer who has taken regular lessons with his PGA Professional is reaping the rewards after the pair triumphed to win a place in the grand final of the Lombard Trophy at Gleneagles.

Simon Clifford, who plays off 10, and Hendon Golf Club head pro Matt Deal, (pictured right), topped the regional final at Orsett Golf Club with an eight-under-par 64.

Their one stroke victory over Toot Hill’s Mark Bishop and Ernie Stoker has secured them a tilt at the coveted title which will be contested over 36 holes over the Ryder Cup PGA Centenary Course from September 3-4 with a prize fund of £43,000 at stake including £12,000 to the winning pro.

For Bishop and Stoker it was a case of what might have been with eagles at nine and 14 offset by costly bogeys on the third and seventh holes.

Meanwhile Deal is no stranger to the Lombard Trophy having reached another grand final in Portugal more than a decade ago and an eagle on the 499-yard par-5 fifth helped book a return.

“We made a great start and were six under through nine holes,” he said.

“We were steady coming in and tried not to think too much about the prize at the end of it all. It’s a great feeling to know we’ve reached a national final and I've never been to Gleneagles so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Deal loves competing but is also a talented and experienced coach with Middlesex and at his club where Clifford, aged 22, has been a regular pupil for the past six years.

“He’s a decent player, he plays off 10 but hits the ball as far as me so he’s a good partner to have on your side," added Deal.

Barnet-based Clifford has just graduated in economics from Manchester University and is hoping to carve out a career in the city – but in the meantime is focusing on another important number – getting his handicap down with the help of some expert tuition.

“I started having lessons with Matt five or six years ago to help me improve and the better you play golf the more enjoyable it is,” said Clifford.

“However while I might be able to hit the ball as far as he, unfortunately I’m nowhere near as consistent. It’s fantastic to win though and I can’t wait for Gleneagles.”

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