Durham City’s Gary Atkinson and Stephen Carter outlast pairs from across the North East and Yorkshire to win the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs tournament
After a tense final over Close House’s Colt Course, Durham City Golf Club’s Gary Atkinson and Stephen Carter were crowned 2018 Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs champions.
Having progressed through seven months of matches against pairs from across the region, 15-handicapper Gary and 13-handicapper Stephen overcame Newbiggin Golf Club’s Carl Brydon and Tynemouth Golf Club’s James Ogden 1up in a close, and at times nervy, final to win the trophy and a trip to Spain in February for the North East & North West PGA’s Spain Pro Am courtesy of Kevin Batty and GolfingHolidays.org.
“Despite all the pressure of playing in the final, we managed to pull through right at the end,” said Stephen after holing the winning putt on the 18th.
“Playing against much lower handicappers, we knew we would have to use our shots, which we managed to capitalise on a number of times despite not being in many of the holes together.”
“I loved every minute of the final,” added Gary. “The nerves were jangling a bit on the first tee and we knew we were up against it when James and Carl hit great long tee shots down the first. But we always knew we had the shots and that would give us opportunities throughout the round. I was delighted when Stephen rolled it the putt on the last having gone through all the nerves of extra holes in the semi-finals.”
As well as securing their place on the flight to Spain in February, which we’ll have a full report on in our April edition, Gary and Stephen became the 16th winners of our Match Play Pairs event, which began in 2002.
Stephen added: “We’ve loved meeting other pairs and playing new courses all around the region – all for a £25 entry fee.
“The highlight for me has to be the putts to win the semi-final and the final. In the semi-final, I wasn’t expecting to get it close never mind hole out across the full length of the green.
“In the final, to be faced with a similar short putt to the one I had just missed on the 17th was pretty daunting. It’s incredible how much nerves can affect you but I managed to keep it together and hole the important one right at the end of seven months of golf.”
“The camaraderie at every stage has been one of the big highlights for me,” added Gary.
“There has been a great atmosphere at each game and we would recommend the event to everybody – it’s fantastic value for money. In the final, the highlight for me was the bunker shot on the 12th. That was a huge moment. I thought we would need an up and down to get the half but to win that hole was a massive boost.”
In a close final, which never reached more than a 2up advantage, Gary and Stephen got off to a slow start, scraping nett bogeys to tie the first before losing the tricky second to a nett birdie by James. James and Carl failed to take advantage of their extra length from the tee at the third before Gary and Stephen produced the most one-sided spell of the match, winning the fourth, fifth and sixth holes to go 2up.
James would answer back at the par five seventh with a superb birdie before a pair of nett pars saw the eighth and ninth holes halved – Gary and Stephen taking a 1up advantage into the turn.
At the uphill par five 10th, Stephen made use of his shot to win the hole with a nett birdie before James answered straight back with a nett birdie of his own to win the par four 11th.
One of the biggest moments of the match followed at the par three 12th. With James and Carl lying close to the flag with birdie putts, Gary played his shot from the front left bunker to within 1ft of the hole for a nett birdie before James and Carl both failed to convert good chances for twos of their own.
Gary and Stephen relied on their shots to maintain their advantage at the 13th, while excellent tee shots from Stephen and James saw the 14th halved in par threes.
James and Carl then gave themselves a chance with two of the best shots of the match setting up Carl’s par at the stroke index one 15th hole, which was enough to get the Northumberland-based pair back to 1dn with three to play. Both then found trees from the tee at the 16th as Stephen again made use of his shot with a nett par to win the hole.
Carl and James still weren’t done however with both going for the par five 17th in two. Despite failing to take full advantage, nerves got the better of Stephen from close range to gift James and Carl a late reprieve – winning the hole with a bogey six to send the match to the last.
With Carl driving into a fairway bunker while Gary and Stephen laid up short of the green in two, James failed to capitalise from the best position in the fairway as his ball clipped the wall short of the green and ended up beyond the putting surface. Following some nervy shots around the green the final putt fell to Stephen – who managed to overcome his short miss on 17 to hole his 4ft putt for the half and secure the 1up win.
Gary and Stephen teamed up for the first time for the 2018 event having played with different partners in 2017. They progressed through two home matches and away games at City of Newcastle and Eaglescliffe en-route to the semi-final and final at Close House.
Northern Golfer editor and tournament organiser Dean Bailey said: “The Match Play Pairs is our oldest event and this season’s tournament produced some excellent golf.
“Congratulations to Gary and Stephen, I am sure they will enjoy the prize provided by Kevin Batty from GolfingHolidays.org. A huge thank you to Kevin and the PGA; and to Jonathan Lupton and the team at Close House for hosting this year’s semi-finals and final with both courses in excellent condition.
“We look forward to welcoming more pairs into next year’s event and to adding to the long list of champions from across the region.”
In this year’s semi-finals, staged over the Filly Course at Close House, Gary and Stephen overcame Chester-le-Street’s Jason Emmerson and Gary Davies at the third extra hole – Stephen holing a putt across the full length of the third green to win the match. Meanwhile, Carl and James overcame 2017 champions David Wainman and Matt Sibley of Eaglescliffe 1up in another tense match.
Entries for the 2019 Match Play Pairs event will open next month with full details in the December/January edition of Northern Golfer.