MOVING day proved just perfect for County Down’s Cormac Sharvin, even if he felt like his two nearest rivals would be in complete control going in to the final round at Seaton Carew.
Sharvin’s effective but unspectacular three-under 70 was enough to propel him to the top of the Brabazon Trophy leaderboard, where he shares the lead with England internationals Ryan Evans and Ben Stow.
Evans and Stow both stuttered in one another's company en route to posting respective 75s after failing, like so many golfers in the third round, to adapt to the changing conditions on the challenging links.
After the calmness and dry weather in the first two rounds meant routine starts to many of the world’s top amateurs on the North Sea coast, the penultimate round created something of a stir even if the Brabazon course is still to bare its teeth like the locals know it can.
That helped Sharvin to climb in to serious contention to become the first Irish golfer since Niall Kearney to win the English Amateur Strokeplay title at Moortown in 2009. He will be in the final pairing of the day at Seaton Carew later this morning, when he goes out with Wellingborough’s Evans, much to his surprise.
“I am pleased. I didn’t really think getting seven under would be leading it at this stage, I thought I would have to get to 16-under to have a chance this week,” said Sharvin. “I played alright. I started to play better on the way in and I dropped a few putts, but three under for today is a good score.”
The 21-year-old, sporting Ireland's green colours, was knocked out at the last-16 stage of the British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush last weekend and he has enjoyed trying to come to terms with Seaton, having grown up on the links at Ardglass, on the outskirts of Belfast.
“It’s quite a tricky course here, it’s the sort of course you either like or you don’t,” said Sharvin. “You get chances, it firmed up a bit so it was a bit harder. I play on links so I enjoy it, hopefully that will help me.”
Sharvin had an up and down day and was only one-under when he emerged from posting a bogey at 15. Then his gap wedge approach on the 16th led to a successful 6ft putt for birdie and he followed that up with a further birdie at 17 when he made the most of a close nine-iron approach to the tough two-tiered green.
News had not filtered back down the field to the overnight leaders, although both Evans and Stow feared the worst because they had been unable to come to terms with the wet greens.
Evans looked like he had recovered from early bogeys at the second, when he took two out of a fairway bunker, and third. He moved back to level par for the day with birdies at 11 and 14. When Stow three-putted at 15, Evans had moved ahead by two.
But then the 27-year-old found the rough twice at 16 to drop a shot before three-putting the last. Frustrated, but far from dejected, he said: “The first six or seven holes it was windy and dry, the greens were very fast and shiny. Then they slowed up and we both struggled to get to the hole.
“We had green patches, brown patches, the whole day was difficult. I just struggled to get going. There are players who have gone out and gained ground, if you look at the top 15 they all have a chance to win it.”
Had Stow made the most of his approach to within 4ft at the last then he would have had a shot advantage going in to the final round. He wasted his birdie putt and headed straight for the practice ground.
The Rushmore, Dorset, golfer said: “I played so good in the first two days so it was frustrating out there. I had a couple of bad tee shots, didn’t hit fairways. I lost a ball on five, dropped a shot there. I have had a rough day but I am still up there.
“Me and Ryan didn’t play well, but when it started to rain it slowed down. It was a bit of a test. It’s testament to my golf that I am still in the tournament. Things didn’t go my way.
“If I was four shots ahead I would have to go out and play well, if I was four shots behind it would be the same. I just have to go out and play my game and hope it’s good enough.”
Stow and Evans’ failure to maintain the three-stroke gap they held after the second round has opened the door beyond Sharvin. Craig Ross (Kirkhill), Michael Saunders (Dartford), Gavin Moynihan (Island), Scott Gibson (Southerness), Ashley Chesters (Hawkstone) and Daniel Young (Craigie Hill) are all just a shot further back on six-under.
There are also four golfers sitting on five-under, with the top 20 players all boasting under par scores. Enfield’s Harry Casey is among that quartet, having turned in the performance of the day with an impressive five-under 68.
Boldon’s Gavin Nesbit finished with a two-over 75 meaning he will start Saturday on a respectable two-over. Prudhoe’s Thomas Rowland and Whickham’s James Simpson are well out of contention on three-over after a respective 77 and 78.
Entry is free at Seaton Carew for the final round of the Brabazon Trophy.
-7 Cormac Sharvin (Ireland), Ryan Evans (Wellingborough), Ben Stow (Rushmore)
-6 Craig Ross (Kirkhill), Michael Saunders (Dartford), Gavin Moynihan (Island), Scott Gibson (Southerness), Ashley Chesters (Hawkstone), Daniel Young (Craigie Hill)
-5 Harry Casey (Enfield), Paul Kinnear (Formby), Adam Chapman (Windermere), Ciaran Doherty (Bury)
+2 Gavin Nesbit (Boldon)
+3 Thomas Rowland (Prudhoe), James Simpson (Whickham)