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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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Masterstroke chip challenge spells joy for golfer Bill

EVERGREEN golfer Bill Ward proved age is no barrier by landing a place in the final three of the high-stakes Masterstroke challenge.

The 75-year-old held his nerve in a sudden-death play-off with rookie Dave Kyriacou to win through to the penultimate stage of the competition, alongside Frank Lacey and Justin Quint.

The two previous finals nights at Barrow’s Zone Golf driving range had seen the six finalists attempting to hit a trampoline set target 55 yards away, then tested on their distance and accuracy with a driver. This time the four players still fighting for the prize of a year’s worth of free coaching from PGA professional Paul Rawlinson, some quality equipment and a 12-month membership at Furness Golf Club, were tasked with landing the ball on a raised green 100 yards away.

With only four yards to play with either side of the flag and three yards in front and behind, there was little margin for error. Club choice was crucial and proved tricky to judge.

Having said that, Quint was right into his stride, underlining why he plays off a 5.3 handicap by scoring with two of his opening three pitches.

Quint’s opponents found the going a lot tougher, with Lacey switching between pitcher and sand wedge to no avail, and Ward and Kyriacou also failing with their first three attempts, although the latter came mightily close, hitting his second ball pin-hi, but too far right – a problem which was to prove his downfall further down the line.

The second round saw Quint the only scorer again, the Aussie taking a commanding three-shot lead and booking his place in the next round.

Lacey once again swapped his clubs and twice landed just a few feet away from the target area, while the unfortunate Kyriacou came so close with his second attempt that Rawlinson headed on to the green to see if he his ball had scored, but again it was just wide.

Round three saw each player with just one ball left to play, and the tension was mounting, with only Quint able to relax.

When the going got tough, Lacey finally nailed one, and the 19-handicapper breathed a sigh of relief, saying: “That’s the furthest I’ve ever hit a sand wedge in my life.”

With Lacey and Quint safely through, and their rivals not finding the green, it was sudden-death time.

So 24-handicapper Ward battled it out with Kyriacou, a man 46 years his junior but a relative newcomer to the game.

Rawlinson took up his position adjacent to the green and saw both stray left with their first shots. Kyriacou got the distance spot-on with his second effort, but agonisingly his effort sailed just too far right.

His frustration then turned to disappointment as Ward stepped up the driving mat and produced easily his best shot of the night, seeing his nine wood sail through the night sky and land perfectly a couple of yards to the left of the flag.

The shot had earned him a place in the final three – but spare a thought for Kyriacou who had peppered the edge of the green three times without success.

So we’re down to the final three – Lacey, Quint and Ward – and they will be in action again tomorrow night at Zone Golf (6.30pm).

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