Ellis misses out on pay-day

CHRIS WISE It was a case of so near and yet so far as Ian Ellis missed out on a bumper pay-day in the cruellest of fashions at last week's BMW Championship at Wentworth.


It was a case of so near and yet so far as Ian Ellis missed out on a bumper pay-day in the cruellest of fashions at last week's BMW Championship at Wentworth.

The Royal Norwich player produced a memorable back nine of 33 in his second round to claw his way back into the top 70 in the European Tour's flagship event, which boasted a prize fund of more than £2m.

But, unbeknown to him, the cut for this particular tournament came at 65th position and ties - and soon after completing his round he received the shattering news that he would almost certainly be heading home at the weekend.

With 12 players unable to finish their rounds at the rain-affected event Ellis was obliged to hang around until Saturday morning, but it didn't take long for his fate to be confirmed - and he was then left to reflect on one of the most exciting, yet at the same time frustrating days of his professional career.

The Norfolk man would have been guaranteed over £4000 had he made the cut, while his earnings would have soared up to well in excess of £20,000 had he worked his way up into the middle of the field over the next two days. Instead he was left with absolutely nothing - and that really hurt.

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“Immediately I finished my round on Friday I asked one of the officials where I was in the field and when I was told I was inside the top 70 I was delighted because that is where the cut usually comes,” he explained.

“But then I was told it was only the top 65 and ties that would make it and that really did knock me back. I knew then that I would need a miracle to get in for the weekend, with four more players dropping back to three over, and sadly that didn't happen.

“I had to come along on Saturday just in case - but it wasn't long before I was heading for home and thinking about what might have been. It wasn't much fun watching the rest of the tournament on the television, I can tell you.”

Ellis, who qualified for the event via the PGA's Eastern region order of merit, appeared to be fighting a losing battle to make the cut when he followed up his opening round of 76 by dropping shots on each of his first three holes on Friday afternoon. That took him out to seven over par, but a superb eagle at the 552-yard par five fourth reignited his challenge and although he dropped two more shots before the turn he refused to be downhearted.

While the likes of Ian Poulter (77), Darren Clarke (74) and Ernie Els (74) were struggling to come to terms with a combination of a difficult golf course and miserable conditions Ellis went on a magnificent run, with birdies at the 11th, 14th, 16th and 18th holes seeing him finish with an excellent one-under par total of 71.

“Obviously I was very disappointed when I learnt it wasn't enough but I was still happy with the way I played,” said Ellis, who will be playing in the PGA's Southern Open at the Drift Club in Surrey this week. “I chipped to within an inch or so at the 18th and had that one gone in I would have made the cut, but that's the way it goes.

“I have been working on my game with Guy Ireson at Sprowston Manor and I was pleased with the way I competed. It would have been nice to have made some money, because obviously that is very important as well, but I have got to be positive after that.

“I need to get myself fitter, and build up my physical strength - I know that - but I think I have got the game to compete with a lot of these guys and I'm determined to build on this.

“I'll be going for a tour card later in the year and if I play as well as I can I should have a good chance. This is what I want do and at the age of 33 I have still got plenty of time to make a mark.”

Ellis saved the final word for the friends and relatives who travelled down to Wentworth to watch him mix it with some of the best players in the world.

“I should imagine around 20 to 30 people were there to support me over the two days and that was very much appreciated,” he said. “I'm sure they were as disappointed as me when I didn't make it but hopefully I'll be back next year and can play all four days - that's certainly my aim.”

Norfolk's other player at Wentworth, Tour regular Andrew Marshall, finished six shots behind Ellis after recording rounds of 78 and 75.