James Rowles, Assistant Greenkeeper from Henbury Golf Club in Bristol, has been crowned BIGGA National Champion 2015 after a superb two days of golf in North Yorkshire.
The one handicapper’s triumph in the event at Fulford Golf Club was built on a stunning opening round of 69 – three under par. Amazingly, he recovered from dropping three shots in the opening two holes and took just 30 shots on the back nine, the highlight of which was an eagle on the 508 yard, par five 11th.
This magical back nine on the excellent heathland course, wonderfully presented by Head Greenkeeper Mark Mennell and his team, was identical to Ian Woosnam’s back nine when he hit the course record of 62 in 1985.
He followed this up with a one-over 73 on day two to clinch the BIGGA Challenge Cup by two strokes.
25-year-old James showed terrific commitment, setting off from his Bristol home at 4am on Monday morning to make his 10.08am tee time in the tournament which was kindly sponsored by Charterhouse and Kubota.
He said: “I’m very happy, it’s such a good feeling to win. On the first morning I got off to a bad start. On the first tee, I went in the bunker, duffed a simple chip then three putted for a double bogey. Next hole I hoicked my tee shot and got a bogey, then I seemed to settle down a bit and got through the front nine.
“I birdied ten, then eagled the 11th, chipping in from about 20 yards with a 64 degree lob wedge. I knew I was playing well and I was putting well too.
“The second round was the opposite – I birdied the first and the second and after nine holes I knew I was four or five ahead. Then I got a bit twitchy and just about managed to hold on.
“I’d like to thank everyone at Fulford – the course is fantastic. The greens are brilliant and I putted really well on them! Also thank you to the sponsors, and everyone at BIGGA.”
James overcame the challenge of Aaron Schnacke from Halifax West End Golf Club, who hit a one-under 71 to finish two shots behind. Newmachar Golf Club’s Chris Lamb was third overall, while Derek McJannet from Matlock Golf Club hit an excellent 71 on the second day to finish fourth.
Reigning champion Gordon Sangster from Cathkin Braes Golf Club followed his opening round of 78 with a 73 to finish fifth. Other prizewinners included Leigh Mordy from Knowle Golf Club who clinched the BIGGA Challenge Cup with a nett 143.
Over 70 greenkeepers headed to North Yorkshire from across the UK, and as far afield as Switzerland, to compete for a range of prizes. As always, players had the option to compete in the Stableford competition on the second day rather than the medal and the camaraderie so evident at BIGGA events was again on display throughout.
Radley Golf Club’s Paul Hedger scooped the Stableford Prize – the BIGGA Challenge Plate – with 41 points while Andrew Cornes from Thorntree Amenity won the BIGGA Challenge Bowl which is open to Affiliate Members.
Both rounds began in brilliant sunshine with very little wind – meaning few excuses for wayward golf! Occasional flurries of light rain were shrugged aside by the enthusiastic greenkeepers who were unanimous in praise of the course, which has hosted dozens of past professional Championships and is perhaps best remembered for Bernhard Langer’s miraculous shot from a tree during the Benson & Hedges International in 1981.
The club hosted the traditional dinner for all competitors on the Monday night with the prizes presented by Jeremy Vincent, Charterhouse Area Manager (Central UK). Tom Dunlop, Dealer Manager at Kubota, was also in attendance and Club Captain Mike Blades gave a short speech welcoming all attendees.
Fulford’s Head Greenkeeper Mark Mennell, whose 40 years service to the club was honoured with a celebratory dinner last Friday, was presented with a tankard by BIGGA Vice President Sid Arrowsmith MG.
Several of the BIGGA House team made the short journey from Aldwark Manor to administer, support and organise the event, and their efforts were saluted at the close of proceedings by BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton. Jim also thanked everyone at Fulford Golf Club, sponsors Charterhouse and Kubota and all the competitors. See you at Bowood Golf & Country Club next October!
BIGGA Challenge Trophy (Overall Gross)
BIGGA Challenge Cup (36 Hole Nett)
BIGGA Challenge Plate (Stableford):
BIGGA Challenge Bowl (Affiliate Members)