Ace Lythgoe rises to the challenge
Norfolk number one Neil Lythgoe has exported his winning ways to the US pro-am circuit - and conquered one of the world's most famous courses. Lythgoe, from Royal Norwich, is just back from a successful trip to the States where he won the Sawgrass Classic for the second time.
Norfolk number one Neil Lythgoe has exported his winning ways to the US pro-am circuit - and conquered one of the world's most famous courses.
Lythgoe, from Royal Norwich, is just back from a successful trip to the States where he won the Sawgrass Classic for the second time.
He also took the honours in a special professionals' challenge on the famously difficult Stadium Course at Sawgrass, which hosts the Players Championship.
Lythgoe was there to watch Phil Mickelson win this title and then followed up with his own, superb golf.
The professionals were challenged to break 80 on the Stadium Course from the back tournament tees. That is no easy task given that Pete Dye's monster course measures over 7,000 yards and has a reputation for being one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour.
Among the holes they had to negotiate were the island green 17th and the difficult par four 18th which is regularly ranked as the hardest hole on the PGA Tour.
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Six pros beat 80 with Lythgoe returning the best score of the day - 75 - after a shaky start.
He said: “I was seven over after 11 holes and then played the remaining holes in four under par. I played out of my mind to finish like that.”
He parred the 17th - and then birdied it during the pro-am proper. Not everyone found it so easy. During the pro-am the amateurs were all given the chance to play from the back tournament tee and although it measures just 137 yards, over half of the players put their first shot in the water.
Lythgoe clearly thrives on the challenge of the Stadium Course. “There are so many intimidating shots you almost switch off and ignore all the trouble,” he said. “If you started thinking about it you wouldn't be able to hit a shot!”
In the 54-hole pro-am Lythgoe was five shots clear of the field with scores of 74 at St John's Golf & Country Club, 72 on the Sawgrass Stadium Courses and 71 on the Valley Course. His team of Royal Norwich amateurs Ron Maidstone, Dennis Grady and Bryce Collishaw were third in their event.
They then moved on to the Pebble Beach Classic pro-am where Lythgoe led for two rounds before being pipped on the final day by Belgian Arnold Langenaeken.
The Norfolk player was level for the three rounds, scoring one over at Spanish Bay, two under at Spyglass - which he rates as the best course he has ever played - and one over at Pebble Beach. It was the second time he has been runner-up in this event.
Now Lythgoe's attention is focused on PGA East Region events as he pursues his ambition of finishing at the top of the table.
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