A good mixture of talented young lions and established junior team members had qualified for the first round of the Match Play Championship at Lochmaben Golf Club on Thursday 16 July. The weather was dry and cool with some sunny intervals and the course was in immaculate condition. A challenge all the boys were looking forward to as they stood on the first tee.
In the first morning match sixteen year old Greg Rice (D&C) and fourteen year old Mitchell Cowie (D&C), playing in their first match play championship, produced a very steady and tight exhibition of accurate golf over the first nine holes before Greg hit a few loose shots and Mitchell capitalised to come out the winner by 5 and 3. Callan Harkness (Lochmaben), the local favourite, putted very well and birdied 15 and 16 to edge out a spirited display by Ethan Colthart (D&C) by 3 and 2. Nathan Watson (Kirkcudbright) had a struggle to overcome the younger ever-smiling Jamie Marchbank (D&G). Although Nathan took an early lead he was always aware Jamie was nipping at his heels and was relieved to finish the game on the seventeenth green and win by 2 and 1. Unfortunately twelve year old David Sharp (D&C), the youngest player in the field, could not compete with the length and accuracy of seventeen year old Fraser Hughes (Newton Stewart) and lost 8 and 6. David looks a super prospect and there is no doubt his day will come. Angus Bendall (Castle Douglas) had too much power and accuracy for Daniel Robson (Lochmaben), the other local hopeful, and although Daniel never gave up he eventually lost by 5 and 4. The last game was between two Kirkcudbright friends and Club members, William Squires and Cameron Gray. Both were looking for the bragging rights for the rest of the season and it was the younger Cameron Gray, playing the steadier and more consistent, who emerged victorious by 3 and 1.
In the afternoon the No 1 seed, Rowan Marchbank (D&C) was drawn against the improving and steady Mitchell Cowie. Mitchell showed no nerves and continued his relentless straight driving and iron play of the morning to beat his more illustrious opponent when Rowan, not playing at his best, hit another wayward drive at the fifteenth to lose the match by 5 and 3. Nathan Watson had another tight match, this time against Callan Harkness. Although Nathan was 3 up at the turn Callan fought back before Nathan held on to win by 2 and 1.
Fraser Hughes and Angus Bendall produced the match of the day. Angus got off to a great start with two eagles in the first nine, including a hole-in-one at the third using a six iron and holing his second shot at the par 4 ninth but still could not put his doughty opponent to bed and was only 1 up after nine holes. Angus, still standing 1 up on the fifteenth tee, hit a wayward drive to lose the hole, lost the sixteenth to a birdie and hit another wayward drive at seventeen to lose the match by 2 and 1. Fraser played very consistently and was a worthy winner as he never gave up. In the last match Finlay Copland (D&G), the No 2 seed, took an early lead against Cameron Gray which he was never to relinquish. Cameron could not find the magic of the morning to beat the all-round consistency of Finlay and eventually lost by 4 and 2. All the boys enjoyed celebrating his hole-in-one with Angus in the clubhouse after play
The photograph shows Angus Bendall (Castle Douglas) being congratulated on his hole-in-one at the third hole
The weather on Friday for the semi-finals and final had changed drastically from the previous day to overcast with strong winds gusting to over 40 mph. The course had no visible signs of the overnight heavy rain and thunder and lightning and although playing slightly longer the greens were very receptive. This produced three cracking matches with high quality skills levels from the four remaining competitors.
In the first morning semi-final Nathan Watson got off to a flying start and was soon two up on Mitchell Cowie. Mitchell, to his credit, kept his cool and never let his head go down. After 13 holes and four down he decided it was time for a fighting comeback but unfortunately ran out of holes and lost 2 and 1. The match between Fraser Hughes and Finlay Copland was a ding-dong battle with Finlay’s magical short game giving him an advantage over the first twelve holes and a two hole lead. Fraser then found his putting touch and birdied thirteen and fourteen and with a par on the long par 5 fifteenth took a one hole lead which he held till they shook hands on the eighteenth green. Two wonderful matches played in a very friendly spirit and a great credit to all four boys.
Over lunch the strength of the wind had increased but this did not deter the two gladiators. Fraser won the first hole after Nathan found a fairway bunker off the tee and birdied the second to go two up. Nathan won the short third with an excellent chip after both had missed the green and the match settled down with three straight pars before Fraser birdied the seventh to go two up again. Nathan fought back at the short eighth only to lose the ninth to another Fraser birdie. Fraser was two up; had played the first nine in par 33 and Nathan in two over in 1 hour and 8 minutes. Fraser won 11 with birdie and 12 with par and looked to be heading for his first South title in his third final only for Nathan to win 14, 15 and 17 and stand on the last tee one down.
Sadly Nathan hit a very wayward drive off 18 and although he got a birdie with his second ball Fraser was able to play conservatively up the fairway to gain the victory he so desperately wanted in his last year as a junior. Both boys had given an exhibition of super ball striking and short game play in very testing conditions which had been a joy to watch. Nathan’s day will surely come but this day belonged to Fraser Hughes (Newton Stewart) who is the South of Scotland Junior Match Play Champion 2015.
M Cowie (D&C) beat G Rice (D&C) by 5 and 3
C Harkness (Lochmaben) beat E Colthart (D&C) by 3 and 2
N Watson (Kirkcudbright) beat J Marchbank (D&G) by 2 and 1
F Hughes (Newton Stewart) beat D Sharp (D&C) by 8 and 6
A Bendall (Castle Douglas) beat D Robson (Lochmaben) by 5 and 4
C Gray (Kirkcudbright) beat W Squires (Kirkcudbright) by 3 and 1
M Cowie beat R Marchbank (D&G) by 5 and 3
N Watson beat C Harkness by 2 and 1
F Hughes beat A Bendall by 2 and 1
F Copland (D&G) beat C Gray by 4 and 2
N Watson beat M Cowie by 2 and 1
F Hughes beat F Copland by 1 hole
F Hughes beat N Watson by 1 hole
The photograph shows Duncan Moore, President of the South of Scotland Golfers’ Association presenting Fraser Hughes (Newton Stewart) with the South Junior Match Play trophy.