Europe’s No.1 golf retailer stages unique event with plans already in place to make to 2017 version bigger and better
By Martin Inglis
American Golf has crowned its inaugural Seniors and Ladies’ champions after a bumper Grand Final weekend at The Belfry.
Ian Hendry and Martin Leo prevailed in the 36-hole Seniors final on the famed Brabazon Course, seeing off Vale Royal Abbey duo Andrew Threlkeld and Nigel Wells.
Holding a two-point overnight lead from Friday, the pair extended their lead to six in torrential rain to seal the title, with Martin already having his sights set on the defence of their title next year.
“To get the chance to play a Ryder Cup course from entering a free competition has been amazing,” he said. “We mixed in some good golf with some bad shots but as a team we combined really well. It was our first competition together but it definitely won’t be the last as I already can’t wait to come back and defend next year.”
Meanwhile, Maggie Hopkins and Sarah Cooper Olsen were named the first American Golf Ladies’ champions after a very close 36-hole encounter.
They beat Charlotte Hinge and Celine Graciet by two points and both couldn’t believe their luck after getting through to the Grand Final by finishing as the last of three in their qualifier.
“I’ve had an amazing year of golf,” said Maggie. “Since the qualifying event I’ve been cut from 28 to 2. I had my first ever eagle last week and now this. American Golf has been fantastic this weekend and this really is an incredible end to the best golfing period of my life.”
Playing off 10, Sarah couldn’t quite believe that they’d reached the final let alone won the title. “Maggie invited me to come and play a free round of golf with her at the Rustington qualifier. We sneaked in as third place qualifiers, but we put together two good rounds and now we’re Ladies’ Champions!”
The last event of the weekend was the hotly contested 9-Hole Championship, where Irish duo Kevin Commins and Thomas Muldoon emerged victorious.
They fell at the semi-final stage in 2015 and were clearly determined to get the job done this time round. Up against father and son pairing Steve and James Hodgson, the matchplay final was a close affair with both teams taking it in turns to go two-up.
With the last hole to play, Kevin and Tom were one-up and, with four safe tee shots away, the Hodgsons were sat in pole position close to the water and the green in sight.
Kevin had 215 to the pin and took a 5-iron. “I couldn’t help but think of Christy O’Connor’s famous shot to beat Fred Couples from the same spot in the 1989 Ryder Cup,” he said. “As soon as I hit it I knew it couldn’t have gone better and that we’d have at least two putts to win the match.” And putt out they did for a fantastic win, taking the final one-up.
The Seniors’, Ladies’ and 9-Hole Championships have been hugely successful and will return alongside the Junior and Long Drive Championships in 2017.
American Golf is also introducing five new free tournaments next year: The Family Cup, Pitch & Putt Championship, Adventure Golf Championship, Scratch and Individual Championships, which will sit alongside the existing events and are aimed at getting more people playing more golf more often.