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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Sudden-death in Masterstroke golf competition

TENSION on the tee. That is the only way to describe the climax to Masterstroke finals night two.

Dave Kyriacou, Bill Ward, Steve Chapman and Justin Quint were locked in a do-or-die battle to stay in the competition.

With Frank Lacey safely through and the unlucky Andy Clough already out after the players had taken six shots apiece, it came down to a four-man play-off to decide who else would be eliminated.

The aim of the game was hitting the driver a decent distance between two markers set 30 yards apart on the fairway. The challenge was as much about accuracy as power, as veteran Bill Ward showed in the sudden death play-off.

He stepped forward and drove his ball straight. It didn’t matter that it had barely gone 80 yards, the evergreen 75-year-old year-old was through, and the pressure was on Kyriacou, Chapman and Quint.

Kyriacou had already missed and Chapman and Quint were also off-target, meaning a second round of sudden death.

This time the novice Kyriacou was on target and Chapman knew he had to nail his shot to put some pressure on Quint, who had produced the most impressive drives on the night.

But Chapman’s ball flew wide left, and Quint produced a monster of a tee shot to secure his place in finals night three, and send his opponent home.

It had been another good night of competition, where straight driving and nerves of steel were the order of the day.

Unlike on the first challenge – hitting a trampoline set 55 yards away – there was no handicapping system in place, because, as PGA pro Paul Rawlinson, told the players beforehand: “Everyone should be able to drive.”

It was not about who could blast it into orbit, it was more about controlled aggression and direction.

Players were given four shots each initially, after which there followed two more rounds, with everyone getting one more shot per round, making a total of six attempts each.

Up first was Kyriacou, who played down his chances with the driver in hand, saying: “I might as well get it over with.”

But in between a couple of slices, he managed to send one right down the middle to score.

Clough – who had been very unfortunate not to score in last week’s chipping challenge – was on the money with his first shot and also nailed his fourth to give him an early lead.

After proving wayward with his first two swings, Ward’s short but straight hits earned him two points.

Top-of-the-leaderboard Lacey was wide with his first attempt, but he recovered and got his radar working to hit his next two dead centre.

Chapman was on target with his opening two drives before seeing his second two sail right and out of bounds.

Quint, the lowest handicapper in the final, showed what he is all about, smashing his first two drives long and straight like he used to do with a cricket bat in hand, during his career as a pro with Ulverston, Barrow and Dalton. Even the pressure got to Quint though, as he miscued his second two, leaving five players on two points and Kyriacou trailing on one after the opening round.

Kyriacou, though, kept it together to land his next ball between the markers, as did Clough, Ward and Quint, with Lacey straying left and Chapman right.

The last round saw Barrow Celtic footballer Kyriacou score again, but crucially Clough missed. And with the next four competitors all hitting the fairway, that meant the former Ulverston and Walney Central rugby league ace had to bow out.

The longest and shortest drivers – Quint and Ward – had ended up joint-top on the night, with four scoring shots each, with the rest on three.

That meant Lacey kept hold of pole position with 10 points overall, but four were locked on nine points – and facing a sudden-death play-off.

It was Chapman who faltered in the end, but the 50-year-old was philosophical about his exit, saying: “Driving is a bit of a weakness which I need to work on.”

And then there were four – Kyriacou, Lacey, Quint and Ward will battle it out in finals week three tomorrow night at the Zone Golf driving range (6.30pm start).

The prize is definitely one worth winning – a year’s worth of free coaching from PGA professional Rawlinson, some quality equipment and a 12-month membership at Furness Golf Club.

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