Stunning finish see Shirland to title

01/12/2012

Christmas came early for Shirland Golf Club as an explosive finish landed them the Lombard Challenge title - 12 months after coming third.

PGA professional Ian Walley, who is also the Derbyshire club's general manager, left the best till last as he finished eagle, birdie, birdie to guide him and club captain Adrian Shaw to victory in the £25,000 PGA Pro-Captain tournament at Antalya Golf Club, Turkey.

The scintillating conclusion, which included Walley chipping in at the 18th, brought them a score of seven-under-par 64 for an overall winning total of 12-under-par.

It gave them a two-shot margin over playing partners Tenterden Golf Club, the long time leaders on the final day, and Costessey Park, who carded a best of the tournament 62 to share second in 10-under.

Walley admitted that their chances of winning the title, which also brought him a cheque for £5,000, looked bleak until his closing heroics.

"We were dead and buried," he said. "Nothing was happening for us early on. We were two behind all the way round with the guys we were playing with and they were probably leading the tournament the majority of the way.

"With three to play we were out of it. My captain hit the water on the par five 16th, where he had a shot. I knocked it on the green to about six feet in two and got it down for eagle. I birdied 17 and chipped it in at the last.

"It's brilliant to win and it's a great place to win as it's absolutely amazing. It's been a great time with the guys, meeting the other pros and the captains.

"The main thing is my captain has really enjoyed it and that's what it is all about. It's not really about the pros, it's more about the captains."

Club captain Shaw, who plays off 12 and got the team off to a flyer with a nett eagle at the first, was overjoyed at the thrilling conclusion.

"This eclipses everything," said the 52-year-old father of six. "The club was third last year and we wanted to improve on that. We were behind the guys from Tenterden all the way and to just edge it at the end was just fabulous.

"It's been a once in a lifetime experience. The hospitality has been fabulous and the course immense. The PGA and Lombard have been superb. It has to be the pinnacle of my golfing career."

It left Tenterden pro Richard Silman and captain Steve Parsons to ponder what might have been after watching Walley's one-man dazzling display.

The duo had chalked up six birdies by the 11th only to derail their campaign with a double bogey at 12. They got another gain at 13 but then parred the final five holes.

But the pair were not despondent at their achievements over the 36-holes of competition.

Silman, who picked up a cheque for £3,150, said: "We're really proud of what we've done. I just think fair play to the finish Ian had going eagle, birdie, birdie. We were three ahead of them standing on the 16th tee and we heard the scores coming in so we knew we had a lead.

"We didn't really consider the guys to be a threat if we're honest. They then had that finish and that's how tournaments are won.

"I perhaps had good chances for birdies on the last three holes which I didn't take but Ian did and so deserves the win."

Parsons, who plays off 18, added: "It was really good and it was very close. At one stage we thought we were comfortable and then the guys from Shirland came back at the end and pipped us, so all credit to them.

"I'll never get to do this again so I put this down as an experience of a lifetime and something to tell the kids."

The round of the day belonged to Norwich's Costessey Park, which saw pro Ian Ellis and captain Ian Thomson, who plays off nine, come out of the pack to almost pull off an amazing victory.

They plundered 10 birdies before dropping their only shot on the last for a nine-under-par round.

The bogey may have cost of them, but Ellis, who also picked up a cheque for £3,150, admitted it was their first round performance that affected their title chances.

"Our trouble was yesterday as we had a poor score," he said.

"In the practice round we shot seven-under and then the first round it just wasn't a very good day. Today though was exceptional.

"When you bogey the last you always think you're going to be one shy but thankfully, we were two out so the bogey didn't make any difference.

"Finishing second is a big thing for us as Costessy Park is only a small club in Norwich. This gets us known a bit more and it might bring more people to the club."

Thomson admitted the experience had been amazing and the perfect end to his reign as captain.

"You get the idea what it's like to be a pro and it's been fantastic to stand back and admire Ian's playing," said the 42-year-old.

"It's a really special end to the year. It's been a great two years as vice captain and now captain but to have this at the end of it capped it all off.

"It's awesome for the club too as we're all over Facebook and Twitter and everyone has sent us load of good wishes."

This was the second year that Lombard has sponsored the PGA Pro-Captain tournament. Managing director Andy Hart hailed the standard of play, the venue and the tournament.

"It's been a fantastic event for us overall and the last couple of days have been brilliant" he said.

"The quality of the play has been outstanding. The guys who won had nerves of steel coming in like they did.

"We're indebted to the staff at the Sirene Hotel for their hospitality and to the golf staff at Antalya Golf Club for the condition and quality of the course.

"It's been a good tournament all the way through from the first qualifier to the final with more than 500 competitors.

"We're delighted to be part of the event and we're looking forward to working with the PGA again soon."

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