Richard Wallis (Walmer & Kingsdown) beat James Ablett (Lee-on-the-Solent) by 4 and 3 to win his first PGA Keith MacDonald Match Play title and crown an unprecedented third PGA in England (South) Virgin Atlantic Order of Merit championship in a row.
Wallis took the winner’s cheque for £1,400 and the first of three places to the Titleist PGA Play Offs in Turkey as the defending champion. Joining him in the remaining two places are Andrew Butterfield (Sundridge Park) and Tom Fleming (Frilford Heath), while Jamie Harris (Nevill) topped the PGA in England (South) Money List.
Already confirmed after the PGA Wildwood Invitational earlier in the week as the new Order of Merit champion, Wallis threw seven birdies at his opponent over the first nine holes at The Berkshire, but was only two up. “I started with a bogey,” Wallis said, “but then I made five birdies in a row against James. I made par at the seventh and then birdied the eighth and ninth – and after all that I was only two up!
“Despite the rain, we had a terrific match and we were both playing really well. We made pars at the 10th, birdies at the 11th, then pars at the 12th and 13th, and I was still just two up. Then James dropped shots at the 14th and 15th and it was all over.
“We were knocking the flags out for thirteen holes,” he said, “despite the rain which had us jumping in and out of water proofs all the time. The greens were pretty wet which affected the putting, but there really wasn’t much between us, just a couple of putts here and there.”
Wallis was happy that he had matched his results last year with three more Order of Merit titles. “I really wanted to win the Match Play title, partly because I haven’t been much good at match play until this year, and partly because it was my last chance to equal my record of three major wins last year. In the match play rounds I was making a lot more birdies and avoiding the errors.”
Now Wallis is focusing on the second round of the Qualifying School in Spain. “I’ve got a month to get in shape. I’m increasing my fitness regime after playing with some younger lads who were banging it 25 yards past me!
“I’m doing more coaching with Paul Page, and then taking a week to play somewhere warm to prepare for what we all hope will be a nice sunny Spain. The last thing we want to see this year is any more rain!”