Eaton’s cool Clements bows out a winner after thrilling play-off success at Norfolk amateur champs
- Credit: Archant
Eaton's Tom Clements held his nerve to win a dramatic play-off at Hunstanton and leave the amateur scene as a county champion.
The 21-year-old hauled back an eight-shot final-round deficit to take Thaine Hacon to a one-hole shoot-out during his final outing in the Norfolk Amateur Golf Championship. Clements, who is now embarking on the start of his professional career, sunk a pressure putt on the 18th to send the showcase event to at least one extra hole. And just like he did in the Norfolk Open three years ago, the promising youngster triumphed to kiss goodbye to the part-time arena on a memorable high.
A delighted Clements said: 'Coming into the event I knew it was my last one as an amateur. So I really wanted to win it.
'Obviously going into the last round eight behind I still thought there was a little bit of a chance. So I just wanted to shoot at least under par, which I did. Quite early on I thought I had a chance. I was three under front nine, Thaine had a couple of bad holes, and I knew I had a chance. I tried to take every hole as it came because it's such a tough course. It's not a golf course you can just go out and make birdies on.
'I was so nervous when I got to the play-off. Anyone can win, although that blow to Thaine had put me as the favourite I'd have thought. But I just wanted to win it so much. I've always wanted to win this and to do it in my last time I could ever play in it, well I'm really ecstatic. It's a big confidence boost for me.'
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Hacon, whose home course is Great Yarmouth & Caister, shot two superb one-under par 71s on Saturday to take control of the four-round tournament. But a six and seven at the back end of his third outing ruined a difficult morning which also saw Clements struggle to an 81. However, the pair went out last for the final round and while both opened up with a birdie, Hacon's demise started when an out-of-character nine saw him hand his playing partner the incentive. Even though he bounced back to register six pars on the front nine, three birdies allowed Clements to claw back seven shots.
The title-hopefuls remained neck and neck through the back nine before the championship's dominant force seemed to have forgotten his troubles and shrugged off any fears that he would blow his handsome lead. The Yarmouth ace took a one shot lead into the final hole but made a unfortunate mistake by believing he could afford to three-putt the 18th and still triumph.
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That error came back to haunt him as the overnight leader saw Clements make par and pump his fist in the knowledge he had completed a miraculous comeback.
The pressure had been building all the way through a windy and final fourth 18-holes and the momentum remained with Clements in the decider. His tee shot on the 345-yard par four opener, the first of the sudden death holes on offer, left him with an easier second shot than his opponent. Even though he left the approach marginally shorter than he would have liked a solid putt kept a good line and left him with the simple task of wrapping up a sensational triumph.
Hacon had missed his fourth from two feet to give the rising star a chance of glory which he didn't turn down. But he was remaining positive despite his final-day capitulation.
He said: 'Obviously I'm disappointed but to put myself in that position in the first place I was really pleased.
'The way it finished, having three putts on the last hole, is a bitter pill to take. But I'll take a lot from the weekend. The fact that I played really well and I had a chance. I've never been to the Norfolk amateur before and had a chance of winning it. I thought I had done enough to win it (on the 18th). I thought a five was going to be good enough. But it wasn't the case. I had the ball on a piece of string the first two days and putted really well but that's golf. It was like chalk and cheese the two days. Putts didn't go in and things really didn't go for me today (Sunday).'
Matt Bacon finished four shots back in third after claiming a final-round par 72 – a remarkable feat considering he shanked a horror 10. Saturday's team championships was won by Hacon, fourth-placed Simon Clark and Tom Rutherford of Yarmouth and Caister.