A ROUND in the rain and a lesson with Deanna Rushworth proved the perfect preparation as Ian Saxton triumphantly lifted the Halifax, Huddersfield Alliance’s prestigious Page Trophy at Crosland Heath yesterday.
The eight-handicapper from Meltham had gone for a ‘dummy run’ around the Heath course the previous day in the pouring rain, but it certainly worked for him as he took the major event in the Alliance’s calendar, with two excellent rounds, leaving him seven-under-par, and two strokes clear of his nearest challenger, Bradley Park’s, Mick O’Hara.
Saxton was laying in second place after the morning round, when despite shooting a five-under-par 66, he still trailed Huddersfield’s Jonny Heyes by two strokes, the Fixby man, playing as an Independent member, having scorched round in 64.
Both Heyes (6) and Saxton had birdie twos at the 176-yard par three 10th, while Heyes also birdied the 6th, 13th, 15th and 18th.
Saxton birdied the third and seventh, and had a run of four straight gross pars, which helped them both stay clear of the chasing pack, led by young Longley Park player Adam Walker (9), O’Hara (11) and Castlefields’ Jim Sykes (10), who all came in with very respectable rounds of 68.
Of the six professionals taking part in the Alliance’s end-of-season championship, David Astin was leading after the morning session with 71, one ahead of Bradley Park’s Jamie Coverley.
In the afternoon, however, early leader Heyes suddenly found the wheels dropping off his round, taking 45 over the first nine before his form returned, by which time his chances had virtually disappeared.
Meanwhile, Saxton continued to play steadily, chipping in on the ninth and completing nine gross pars with a display of consistent golf to come home in 69 for a wonderful winning total of 135 (seven fewer than last year’s winning mark).
O’Hara was similarly consistent, he too recording a 69 the second time around to finish on 137.
But the man who took the eye in the afternoon was undoubtedly Bradley Hall’s Jim Fairhurst, the one-handicapper storming round in 65 gross – 11 shots better than his morning round!
He birdied the first, eagled the third and had further birdies at 6 and 7 with a performance which lifted him up to fourth on the leader board and brought him the best gross prize.
“I just couldn’t hole anything in the morning, although I was hitting everything sweetly all day,” admitted Fairhurst.
“But when I stood on the first green in the afternoon faced with a four-footer, I said to my playing partners, ‘if I hole this I’m going to hole everything, and I just about did!”
But the day ultimately belong to 51-year-old Syngenta electrician Saxton who celebrated his first-ever success in an Alliance competition.
“My partner and I finished second at Outlane a few weeks back, and I thought ‘I’m never going to win one of these,’ but now I’m just chuffed to bits at winning the big one,” declared the winner.
“I came up on Monday and had a practice in all that rain, but I also owe a lot of thanks to Deanna Rushworth at Bradley Park, who gave me a lesson last week, and I just tried to take on board and remember what she had told me. Obviously I’ll be going back!
“It was certainly much easier in the morning when there was no pressure on, and I had a couple of lucky breaks, bouncing back off a wall on the fourth when I was heading out of bounds, and then holing a couple of chips.
“In the afternoon I didn’t want to push it too much and found myself leaving several putts short because I was frightened about being too aggressive.
“And then when I got to the 17th I rushed a short putt and sent it 5ft past the hole and finished up bogeying it.
“Fortunately, I managed to keep it together down the last and got my par, and I’m absolutely thrilled to finally win an Alliance event.”
Other prizes went to Coverley for the leading pro, with a better second round than Astin, while the best morning nett prize went to Heyes, and the afternoon best nett to Independent West End entry Liam Brompton, with 65.