Tight at the top in pro-am
Four players shared top honours with scores of three-under par 67 when the latest Norfolk PGA pro-am was held at Eaton.
Steve Chick of Dunston Hall was first in and relishing the prospect of claiming his first professional win. He succeeded – but had to share the moment with Sam Cubitt (Lowestoft Driving Range), Gary Potter (Gt Yarmouth & Caister) and Lee Patterson (Royal Cromer).
'I was over the moon, but I was really disappointed not to win outright because I left at least three shots out there. I missed two short putts and had a three putt,' said Chick.
'But, saying that, if someone had offered me 67 on the first tee I would have bitten his hand off – and it's given me much more confidence in pro-ams.'
Chick, who had five birdies in his round, had the distinction of five threes in a row from the ninth, two of which were birdies.
Cubitt overcame much adversity to post his score. He turned up suffering pain from a wisdom tooth, discomfort from a shoulder injury and a stiff lower back – and then he lost a contact lens minutes before he was due to tee off.
'I played in glasses for the first time in years,' said Cubitt, who confessed to feeling a little stressed on the first tee. 'I carved my tee shot on to the practice ground but managed to make par – and then I just played beautifully.'
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He missed just two greens all day, but had only one bogey on the par three ninth where he three putted from 45ft from the fringe. His wedge was super-accurate, setting up birdies from inside 2ft on the 14th, 16th and 17th – and helping his salvage par on the 15th after he pulled his tee shot into trouble in the trees. His fourth birdie of the day came via a 20ft putt on the 8th. Cubitt, who also won this event last year, commented: 'I wasn't in the best frame of mind on the first tee but I did feel a little better when I came in. Perhaps I should play in glasses more often!'
Gary Potter resorted to drastic measures to secure his return to winning form – by putting left-handed. He was prompted to make the change after suffering from putting woes while striking the ball well.
'This was my third attempt at doing so and I had 28 putts, which is a huge improvement,' said Potter, who started with a birdie three on the 10th. His new technique helped him save par on the 12th, with a 10-footer; save bogey with a 20-footer on the 13th, where he had been plugged in the left hand bunker and took two to get out; and make birdies on the 16th and 17th, to get to two-under.
On the par-five first he rattled in a 30-footer for an eagle and then faced a frustrating run where he hit all greens in regulation, shaved the hole a number of times, but couldn't get another putt to drop. He fell back into the four-way tie for first place after his last hole, where he overshot the green en route to a bogey. Lee Patterson, like the others, could have improved his score. He failed to birdie any of the par fives and left at least two putts in the jaws of the hole. 'The greens were very slow and probably everyone was going to leave some putts short,' he commented.
He started slowly and was one over after three holes, but he set his round on track with birdies on the fourth and ninth and played steadily on the back nine, with more birdies on 13 and 17.
'It was a good solid round and I didn't put the ball in any trouble, which was satisfying because it was my first game for 10 days. I used to think Eaton didn't suit me but I've learned to be patient and not to use the driver very much.'
The team competition was also tightly contested with only three shots between the top five teams. The winners were led in by Denver's Jason Groat.
The event produced no order of merit points for leader Ian Ellis (Costessey Park), who hosted a team provided by sponsor John Dingle. But Ellis, who shot 71, still commands a 19 point lead at the top of the Dingles Toyota Order of Merit and could secure the title today at Royal Cromer.