Chris Paisley scoops English Challenge at Stoke-by-Nayland

CHRIS Paisley, the 26-year-old former Walker Cup player and Alps Tour winner, gave his career and bank balance a boost with victory in the English Challenge staged over four days on the Gainsborough course at Stoke-by-Nayland.

He finished two shots ahead of his nearest rival Francis McGuirk of Prince’s Golf Club and had the luxury of being able to afford to drop two shots on his final two holes.

The final round was twice delayed by thunderstorms but Paisley easily held off challenges firstly from Welshman Stuart Manley and latterly from McGuirk who, for a brief time was on level terms.

Paisley ended 16 under par for tournament and will look back on the first albatross of his career in the third round as the spark that ignited his rise to the top of the leader board.

At the turn he was one under par and six shots off the lead. Then birdies at the 13th and 14th boosted confidence and his game caught fire.

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His albatross at the par five 16th started with a drive into semi-rough on the right.

He was left 227 yards from the pin. His magical four-iron pitched short of the green, bounced a couple of times and rolled into the cup.

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Paisley admitted: “I was aiming at a different spot but I pushed the shot a fraction.”

While Paisley was flying, the same could not be said for second round leader Robert Dinwiddie. He had not dropped a shot in two rounds and was looking solid, but you can never be too sure on the golf course.

A third round of five over par, one birdie and six bogeys, dropped him out of contention.

Manley would have started the final round level with Paisley but for a double on the last hole, the scenic par three over the lake.

A double at the first in his final round left him with an uphill task. He had eagles on the par five fifth in three successive rounds, but he could only manage a par yesterday as he slid rapidly down the leader board.

The first suspension of play at 1.49pm lasted for an hour and 10 minutes yesterday.

Then another thunderstorm halted play again at 4.40 when the last group still had five holes to play. Paisley and McGuirk were neck and neck at the time of the first stoppage.

The delay favoured Paisley. McGuirk had a double at the seventh, a 172-yard uphill par three at which only the top of the flag is visible from the tee. His chances went downhill for a while with another double at the 13th.

McGuirk rallied after the second stoppage with a birdie at 15 and an eagle at 16 but it was all too late.

Suffolk’s Jamie Abbott moved smoothly up the leader board on Saturday with a third round of three under par 69.

He was one over at the turn but had four birdies on his second nine including one at the testing 17th which had cost him two shots on the opening day.

Yesterday Abbott made a nightmare start with a double at the second and a bogey at the third. His recovery was slow but sure with birdies at fifth and 12th but as the weather deteriorated he dropped three shots in his final five holes. On Thursday he tees off in the Finnish Challenge at Kytaja Golf Club in Hyvinkaa.

Abbott’s playing partner, England amateur international Ben Stow from Wiltshire, plays in the English Amateur Championship in Cumbria today. He has the final tee-off time off 11.40 at Seascale.

Dale Whitnell of Five Lakes needed something spectacular to replace his steady play if he was to challenge the top two.

Three birdies in the first three holes provided just the platform he wanted to launch a challenge. It was not to be.

He could not muster another birdie and finished with two over par 74.

The only ace of the tournament came in the second round when Bjorn Akesson from Sweden holed his eight-iron at the 172-yard seventh hole to compensate for a double at the previous hole.

There will be an hour programme on the English Challenge and the preceding Disability pro-am on Sky Sports 2 tomorrow at 6pm and on Sky Sports 3 at 8pm and 11pm.

It will be repeated on Wednesday on Sky Sports One at 2am, 11am and 3pm.

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