SEATON CAREW had a glimpse of golf’s future when the brilliant Ben Stow created his own little piece of history on a dramatic final day of Brabazon Trophy action.
When the tenth oldest course in the country last hosted the competition, Peter Baker went on to become a Ryder Cup and European Tour player after sharing the title with the North-East’s Roger Roper.
That was 29 years ago and last year's US Open champion Justin Rose has spoken glowingly about the undulating track on the North Sea coast ever since finishing second behind Graeme Storm in the Carris Trophy – the Boys’ equivalent to the Brabazon – in 1996.
Such names highlight the sort of standards on show throughout last week and Stow turned on the style when it really mattered to become the second Brabazon winner at Seaton Carew.
Stow, whose father Kevin hails from Whickham but now lives in Wiltshire, finished off the job on Saturday by holing a nerve-jangling eight-foot putt in front of the galleries on the 18th green to card a course record-equalling seven-under 66.
That outstanding total was achieved on fairways and greens riddled with tests and problems perfectly complimenting the work of greenkeepers Tony Cartwright, Andy Wood and Ian Stewart. Stow will never forget the biggest moment of his golfing career so far.
“When I got here at the start of the week I saw the nuclear power station, the landfill and plants and I was thinking 'I’m not sure about this place',” said Stow. “But the golf course was in great nick all week and I will remember this place forever.
“The layout is nice, it suited my eye. I could shape the balls into the holes and I read the greens well. Amateur golf is all about this type of golf, remembering all the places you have been and triumphed at. I will never forget this. It’s a great thing for me to do it here, I love it.”
Stow, who played in last year’s Open at Muirfield after qualifying, has been making waves across the Atlantic where he is on a scholarship at the University of Kentucky.
He was clearly intent on making quick progress by posting five birdies, including at the first and second, before the turn. Those proved enough to earn him a two-shot lead, despite England team-mates Ashley Chesters and Ryan Evans doing their bit to stay in touch.
Chesters, who started the final day a shot off the leaders, was flawless in his pursuit and when he holed a monster 40ft putt on the 15th green he had the momentum. His eighth birdie of the day at the next earned the outright lead. He only needed to finish with two fours to hold the course record outright.
But a testing bunker shot from the front of the two-tiered green at 17 led to a bogey five. It was to prove costly, as Stow recovered from his own dropped shot at 16 to finish on a high.
Evans, in the last group, could still have won it. When the Wellingborough golfer holed a 30ft putt at 16, he was in the thick of things. He made an incredible sand-saving par on the penultimate hole to have the look of a champion.
But as he stood on the 18th tee as joint leader, he heard the applause from the clubhouse in front of him where Stow punched the air in delight after nailing his last birdie putt.
Evans, 27, said: “To get the par at 17 I felt like it was going to be my week. I was thinking ‘I’m going to win this’. But then Ben holed it, I knew he had, I could hear it, so I had to give myself a chance on the last. I hit a good shot out of the rough. I was confident I could hole it but I missed my putt. I am disappointed but fairly happy too. I knew it would be an entertaining finish but there were two seven-unders and I shot six-under - and played pretty good.”
Like Stow and Chesters, West Waterford’s Gary Hurley also hit a record-equalling 66 to climb up to tied fifth alongside Daniel Young and Gavin Moynihan; a shot behind fourth-placed Scotland international Craig Ross. The day, though, belonged to Stow – and he has a taste for more.
“I have been playing amazingly for a while, but I have not quite got the results out of it. I have changed my thinking a little, I putted fantastically and everything I looked at went in,” said Stow.
“I am a perfomer; an athlete. I always have been. I love being in the limelight so I loved those last few holes. If you can’t enjoy that down the last stretch then you are in the wrong sport. I absolutely love that, I love feeling my heart pummel through my chest. That’s what it’s all about.
“To win over four rounds is huge for me against some of the best players in Europe here. This is my biggest win. It just confirmed that I can be as good as I want to be.”
Prudhoe’s Thomas Rowland and Whickham’s James Simpson finished with 74s to end on four-over for the tournament. Boldon’s Gavin Nesbit had a disappointing last round and hit a 79 to leave him an eight over tally.
-14 Ben Stow (Rushmore)
-13 Ashley Chesters (Hawkstone), Ryan Evans (Wellingborough)
-9 Craig Ross (Kirkhill)
-8 Gary Hurley (West Waterford), Daniel Young (Craigie Hill), Gavin Moynihan (Island)
-7 Cormac Sharvin (Ireland)
-6 Harry Casey (Enfield)
-5 Sean Towndrow (Southport), Greig Marchbank (Thornhill)
+4 Thomas Rowland (Prudhoe), James Simpson (Whickham)
+8 Gavin Nesbit (Boldon)