The Volkswagen Masters Final began with a practice round on the brand new course and conditions meant that competitors experienced it at its most difficult. Wind and rain meant the course was playing its full 7,008 yards from the white tees and conditions suited the longer hitters in the field. Players were then treated to an impressive show by 2005 World Golf Trick Shot Champion Paul Barrington followed by a welcome dinner. It was an early night for most as they prepared for the drama of the final the following day. Finalists and their guests stayed at the impressive 5-star Celtic Manor Resort Hotel and so did not have to leave the complex during their stay.
The morning of the final arrived and conditions had not improved. Wind and rain meant that the winners were going to have to battle to earn their place in the world final. With water in play on nine holes and a tough cross wind, many competitors were forced to battle through the elements until the sunshine arrived during the closing stages.
It was Sam Foster from Coventry and Hearsal Golf Club who coped with conditions best in Group A. The +1 handicapper displayed some great ball striking to shoot a 73 gross and took the title by three from St Pierre member John Moody. Foster, an Exeter University player, has represented England at University level, and began the day as one of the favorites. ?Tee to green I was very solid today, I didn?t hole many putts but I knew that level par wouldn?t be far away and so made that my aim,? said Foster.
Ross Hazel was victorious in Group B and provided some serious drama on his way to a nett 75. The Neath Golf Club member had sensed he was in contention standing on the 18th tee. He found sand off the tee on the intimidating par-5 and took two to get out. He was then faced with a difficult decision of whether to lay-up short of the water hazard or take on the sloping green. The 18 handicapper decided to attack the green but saw his ball flying towards the hazard. Disheartened he wandered down to drop a ball only to be informed by a photographer that his ball had skimmed across the water and reached dry land on the other side. The relieved Welshman made a seven to take the victory and seal his ticket to South Africa. ?I?m shocked and so excited, I can?t believe I have won,? said Hazel.
Group C was won by a delighted Daniel Johnson, who fought through the tough conditions to post 28 stableford points. The Seacroft Golf Club member had only begun playing the game again 6 months before he won his Regional Final at Woodhall Spa. He was victorious in the UK Final by just one point from Pat Smithie from Woburn. Pat had put herself into a great position but could only pick up one point in the last four holes to just miss out. Johnson could not believe he had won and had struggled with his game recently, until his girlfriend?s father had given him some pointers.
?I don?t think it has sunk in yet, this is one of the best experiences I have ever had,? he said.
Competitors had to wait for the evening?s gala dinner before the winners were announced. A ten minute film of the day?s event was shown on a big screen, much to the enjoyment of everyone involved.
The three finalists will meet again in November, when they head to South Africa to compete with other winners from around the world. They will stay at the luxury Arabella Resort, situated an hour from Cape Town. Competitors will enjoy the stunning sights of Cape Town and its surrounding area before the battle begins to find the Volkswagen Masters world champions for 2007.