The 2019 Warwickshire Amateur Championship was played at Ladbrook Park Golf Club.
Thanks to the relatively dry start to the year the course was playing hard and fast, with true but firm greens. Add a bit of wind into the mix and the importance of course management and shot selection really comes to the fore... plus a huge side helping of patience.
Before round one commenced I had expected there to be a few under par rounds as Head Greenkeeper Kevin Fellows had suggested the course was set up especially easy, however with the firm surfaces and swirling wind players were finding it especially difficult to reach a few front pin positions which lead to only one player playing under par out of the 66 competitors.
Joe Macilwraith from Olton Golf Club, has been around County Golf for sometime now and has been close on a number of occasions to taking home the silverware, so it was no surprise to see his score as the sole under par round on one under. But considering he found himself 3 under par after the 11th hole even he had to steady the ship somewhat before the end of the round.
Those that know Ladbrook are aware that the final stretch after the 11th hole are particularly tricky and today was no different as looking at the statistics and hole by hole difficulty rankings, 5 out of the last 6 holes were ranked 1-5 in difficulty. Take into consideration that the 11th hole was one of our starting holes for the day, you have to have good self belief, positive thinking, helps of patience (and an occasional reality check) to realise that shots are going to be dropped either early or very late in the round dependant on your starting hole.
This was quite noticeable from the differing nine hole scores through out the day.
Only one shot behind our leader was Lewis Phillips (Coventry) and Luke Allen (Olton) on level par 71, Lewis having a very consistent morning of just one bogey and one birdie over the round, and Luke managing to double the number of birdies to 2 but matched it with the number of birdies. Close behind, one shot further back was John-Paul Banbury (Moor Hall) who has recently returned to the Amateur ranks, and then three players on 73. Mike Pell and Liam Phipps (both Olton) and Dan Bardsley (Moor Hall).
With the course as it was playing this was still anyones to win.
On the second round experience of some players shone through with Gareth Jenkins (Kenilworth) equalling the best round of the day with a one under par 70 which after a morning round of 80 is quite a turnaround and great to see. Another seasoned campaigner, Steve Creed (Maxstoke Park) returned a level par 71 to add to his morning score of 76 meaning he was likely to be near the winners circle at the end of the day. Another great display of grit and determination was Cameron Bridger (Marston Lakes). Cameron works especially hard on his game and was bitterly disappointed after finishing his morning round with a double bogey, so to go back out and return a 72 was fantastic to see. Again all of these giving a big nod towards the importance of battling on and remaining patient.
Meanwhile, our morning leaders were also maintaining, a steely, calm and collected approach that was particularly noticeable and was so important to the challenge they faced. Joe and Lewis both started on the 11th hole int he afternoon so faced the biggest challenge head on. Lewis continued to play some very consistent golf but dropped a few shots before heading to the 1st tee where again emotions were well under control with playing the final 11 holes level par to return a 73 a secure a runner up position on 2 over par.
First round leader found starting on the 11th hard work with 3 bogies in 8 holes dropping his total to 2 over par. As we now know this was only to be expected and Joes patience and attitude shone through with 3 birdies in the next 6 holes and only one bogey to solidify his position at the top on level par for the day.
Throughout the presentation process it was clear that Joe was a popular winner from players and spectators alike and he had the applause to match when picking up the trophy. Looking at the history of the Warwickshire Amateur Championship Joe is the first County Amateur Champion from Olton Golf Club in 55 years. The Clubs last being the illustrious County legend, Jack Urry, who won the even back in 1954.
Joe goes on to complete in the English Champion Club event at Frilford Heath in September.
However, Olton had't stopped there! - alongside the individual event there is a Team Challenge Shield that runs alongside it. Three players from a Club are selected to make up the team where their 36 hole total are added together to find Warwickshire's Champion Club. This year we had a fantastic turnout with 22 different Clubs represented and 6 teams entering the team event. Olton, who won this trophy in 2018 retained the title in style on a total of 13 over par and with their closest rival being Maxstoke Park a full 21 shots further back!
Quite a level of consistency and good luck to Olton Golf Club when they play in the National Finals at Romford Golf Club in September.
Finally, we must say a huge thank you to Ladbrook Park Golf Club, whose support and assistance through the planning and on the day has been fantastic. The staff at Ladbrook are a very well connected team with customer service at the forefront. Special thanks to Club Professional Ryan Burton and his team, Caroline, Sally and Mandy in the Office, Head Greenkeeper Kevin Fellows and his team and lastly a big thank you to Ladbrook Park Captain Dave Saunders and his fellow directors for hosting this event.