Walker overcomes Mother Nature and a setback to rule at Royal Cromer

Walker overcomes Mother Nature and a setback to rule at Royal Cromer

28/07/2022

James Walker defied the wind and an inauspicious start that would have blown many players off course in winning the Coca Cola PGA Assistants’ Championship at Royal Cromer Golf Club.

And he did so in fine style, finishing three shots clear of the field to claim the £5,000 winner’s cheque and add his name to the list of former champions that includes Tony Jacklin, Peter Alliss and Bernard Hunt.

“It’s lovely to look at this and see names you know or know of,” said the 28-year-old admiring the trophy that was first contested in 1930.

That happy ending looked very much in doubt, however, when the year two PGA trainee from Oaks Golf Club, York, exited the first hole with a triple bogey seven on his card.

It meant the one-shot lead he nursed at the start of the round had evaporated but, most importantly, his confidence did not follow suit.

“Everyone has a bad hole in them, it just happened to be early on, that’s all,” he reasoned. “I just chose the wrong club. I was hitting it nicely on the range beforehand and knew I was playing OK. You just move on.”

And move on he did. Two more bogeys on the outward half were cancelled out before a birdie at 10 set the tone for the back nine. Eight successive pars followed to complete a two-over par round of 74 and four-under total for the three negotiations of a challenging course boasting greens in pristine condition.

In holding his nerve, Walker was quick to acknowledge the calming influence of Megan Lockett, his girlfriend and scratch golfer who was on the bag.

“She’s been brilliant all week,” he said. “When things got tough, like they did on the back nine in the first round she kept me going, as she did today and has done all week."

Walker also paid tribute to his father, Graham, a PGA Master Professional, who coaches him.

“We don’t talk much about golf when I’m away and I haven’t called him during the tournament,” he added.

“But I see him for lessons. In my view he’s the best coach in the world, so why wouldn’t you?”

While Team Walker steadied the ship, their closest rivals at the start of the round foundered in the wind and it was left to Adam Runcie (above) and Harry Casey to harbour hopes the leader would implode on the final stretch.

Although ultimately disappointed, they had the satisfaction of being the only other two players in the field to finish in the red on one-under for the tournament.

Moreover, their final rounds will live long in their memories, especially Runcie.

Casey eagled the par-four 18th and Runcie equalled the course record that had been set in the tournament’s second round by Ethan Hurst.

Both posted six-under par rounds of 66 but those bare figures, without belittling Hurst’s achievement, do not do Runcie’s justice.

“It was a fantastic score to shoot today as the conditions were so tricky out there,” he reflected.

“I had complete control of the ball, holed a couple of really long putts, and there were no bogeys on the card. I’m very proud of what I achieved.”

CLICK HERE for a full list of scores from the Coca Cola PGA Assistants’ Championship.

CLICK HERE for a selection of images from the Coca Cola PGA Assistants' Championship.

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