The Volkswagen Masters 2007 Regional Finals got under way in fine style at Liphook Golf Club in Hampshire. The setting could not have been better to mark the beginning of the series as a variety of handicaps competed for three places in the UK Final.
The strength of this year?s Volkswagen Masters field was highlighted by the appearance and eventual victory of England A Squad member Sam Hutsby (pictured centre).
Storms had been forecast but the weather held and the course was in perfect condition for the event. With the men playing from the back tees and with some extremely tough pin positions, the competitors were given a true test of golf.
The 202-yard par-3 opener gave the players a serious introduction to the classic heathland layout. Walking the course, it was easy to see the entrants were finding the fast, sloping greens extremely tough and three and four-putts were a regular occurrence. There were, however, moments of magic early on with Tony Briggs holing a 7-wood for a rare birdie at the par-5 5th.
As at every Regional Final, competitors were split into three handicap categories with a winner from each progressing to the UK Final at Celtic Manor. The format was 18 holes of medal which meant concentration was required throughout the round.
Group A consisted of players with a handicap of 9.4 or below. As it was a full handicap allowance competition, +3 handicapper Hutsby knew he would have to shoot low in order to be in with a chance. Last year?s Spanish Amateur champion was impressive from the start, birdieing the 1st. He followed this up with four more birdies and looked in control at three under par on the 18th tee. The 18-year-old hit the par 5 in two but then four-putted for a bogey 6. His round of 68 for a nett 71 was good enough for a one-shot victory and a place in the UK Final.
?I didn?t think I would win to be honest but I?m delighted. I have never been to Celtic Manor before but I?ve heard good things about it. The final will be one of the last events of the year and hopefully I get a good result and be off to sunny South Africa,? said Hutsby who is coached by Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach Gary Smith.
Group B featured players with handicaps between 9.5 and 18.4. It was won by Andrew Newbon (pictured right), who registered a nett 69, the lowest score of the day. Newbon, who is a member at nearby Old Thorns, began the competition well with 39 gross on the front nine. But he too thought he had missed his opportunity on the tricky final hole. ?I felt like I played really well today but struggled on the fast greens. I got nervous on the last hole and took a 7 after being just short of the green in two. I thought I had blown my chance but am delighted to have won,? he said. ?This is a fantastic golf course which was in fantastic condition and I look forward to competing in the final.?
Finally Group C, for players with handicaps of 18.5 and above was won by Shane Smith (pictured left) from Waterlooville Golf Club. A solid round consisting of two nines of 45 gave the 20-handicapper victory.
?I have played here once before and today the course was in absolutely fantastic condition. The day has been extremely well organised and I can?t wait for the final,? said Smith after his win.
All three players will compete in the two-day UK Final at Celtic Manor where they will have a chance to qualify for the World Final in South Africa.
DATE: May 31
T: 01428 723271
STATS: par 70, SSS 69, 6,167 yards
Ranked No. 50 in the Golf Monthly Top 120 Course Rankings
This Hampshire club was designed as a member’s course, not as a vast corporate venue, and the result is a pleasantly, peaceful setting that is thoroughly enjoyable. The layout itself kicks off with an uncompromising 202 yard, par 3. Thankfully the difficulty of the challenge relents halfway through the front nine but the heather that lines the fairways is a significant danger that will test your accuracy to the end.
Framed beautifully by imposing old trees the course sprawls down and away from a relatively small and understated clubhouse. Liphook is certainly one of the finest heath land courses in Southern England.