Lythgoe so relieved after claiming win

Royal Norwich's Neil Lythgoe took a rollercoaster ride from disaster to elation on his way to victory in yesterday's Norfolk Open at Weston Park.With two holes to play the professional looked to be cruising to his third title: he was seven-under par and leading the tournament by three shots.

Royal Norwich's Neil Lythgoe took a rollercoaster ride from disaster to elation on his way to victory in yesterday's Norfolk Open at Weston Park.

With two holes to play the professional looked to be cruising to his third title: he was seven-under par and leading the tournament by three shots.

With one hole to play, his lead had vanished in a nightmare triple bogey seven. He needed a birdie to win or a par to force a play-off against Weston Park's Ian Ellis.

At the final green his short game - which had underpinned his score - came up trumps again.


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Lythgoe chipped in for that magical birdie and a one shot win over Ellis, who was also runner-up last year.

"I'm just so relieved," said Lythgoe, who finished on five-under par and also wins the Norfolk professional championship.

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He had set the first round pace in the tournament with a three-under par 69, two clear of Ian Ellis and his Weston Park colleague, Danny Chapman.

In the second round it quickly became a contest between Lythgoe and Ellis as both strung together a series of birdies.

Ellis, who is the PGA East Region's order of merit winner, had seven birdies in his round, including one on the 18th and finished the day on four-under par.

Lythgoe, meanwhile, was forging ahead. He started his second round on the 10th and picked up birdies on the 13th, 18th, fourth and sixth to get to seven-under for the day.

On the eighth, his 17th hole, his drive split the fairway and he was left with a short pitch over the sleepered bunker which protects the green.

That was when it all went wrong. Lythgoe's shot fell short, ricocheted off the sleepers and ended in a grassy dip. From there he again played short, finishing in the bunker. His next stayed in the sand and his fifth shot finally made the putting surface.

"I don't know what happened," he said afterwards. "I wasn't nervous or anything."

He was "steaming" as he walked to the final tee but he felt he hit his drive perfectly.

However, it finished on the left hand edge of the fairway and his route to the green was just blocked by two trees, forcing him to hook his approach.

The ball finished just short of the green, beside the right hand bunker. Moments later, Lythgoe chipped in and the title was his: "That last shot speaks for itself," he added.

It was a reward for months of hard work on the short game.

"I didn't hit the ball that great all day but my short game was terrific," said Lythgoe, who got up and down for birdies or par-saves on numerous occasions.

"Six months ago I wouldn't have been in the position I am in today. I've made a huge effort to improve my short game," said Lythgoe.

The amateur honours in the championship went to Austin Brydon, the Norfolk amateur champion from Royal Norwich.

He played his trademark immaculate golf: steadily hitting fairways and greens and holing his share of birdie putts.

"I just really enjoy playing and it's nice to keep on doing well," said Brydon who won the Norfolk Open back in 1990.

His rounds this year of 74, 72 made him leading amateur, pipping Chase Davis (Costessey Park) by virtue of his better second round.

Brydon also won the Craske Salver which is awarded to the player with the best aggregate score in the Norfolk Amateur and Norfolk Open. His total was 356.

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