Sun shines on Westley

PHIL Westley, the 19-year-old two-handicap Hintlesham player, battled successfully through two very close matches under blue skies at Aldeburgh to become the Sunshine Challenge champion for 2007.

By Tony Garnett

PHIL Westley, the 19-year-old two-handicap Hintlesham player, battled successfully through two very close matches under blue skies at Aldeburgh to become the East Anglian Daily Times Sunshine Challenge champion for 2007.

In the semi-final against George Courtney he recovered from being one down on the 14th tee to win two up despite the steady seven-handicap Courtney going round in 76. Westley's accurate putting from anything within six feet was a key to his success. Courtney will look back on losing the 16th, despite receiving a shot, as a devastating blow.

It proved to be a dramatic final for Westley against nine-handicap Tom Fairbrother, also aged 19, of Woodbridge. It was settled at the second extra hole.

They were level at the turn with Westley out in 36 and Fairbrother in 38. Westley, who won two of the par three holes, established a two-hole advantage at the 12th but then lost the 14th to a par. Westley was two up again at the 15th after Fairbrother missed a short putt but he received a shot on the 16th and made it count with both players getting a par.

On the 148-yard 17th Westley was 12 feet from the pin to the right while Fairbrother was on the far left of the green with a tricky downhill putt. Fairbrother judged it well for his par. Westley's birdie putt to win the match missed narrowly.

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At the last Fairbrother's brave par, finished by sinking a seven-foot putt, kept him in the match after Westley's approach missed the green to the right and left a difficult downhill chip.

The first extra hole was halved in par. At the 368-yard second Westley was just short of the green in two and Fairbrother was pin high but in a greenside bunker on the right. Westley had no trouble in securing his par. Fairbrother's bunker shot was excellent but the five-foot putt he needed to keep the match alive hovered on the lip and failed to drop. Had Fairbrother survived that second hole he was due to receive a shot on the third.

The Aldeburgh course was in superb condition with fast and true greens with Westley commenting: “If you could read the line right you would sink the putt.”

In the other semi-final Fairbrother played solidly enough but Shaun Payne, a 15-handicap player from Rushmere, was out of sorts having a delayed return flight from Tenerife landing in the early hours of the morning. It was hardly ideal preparation to take on a testing course like Aldeburgh which shows no mercy to those who are wayward off the tee.

The presentation to the winner and runner-up was made by Perry Hunt, the Aldeburgh club captain.

In earlier rounds Westley beat Kevin Eagle at Rushmere on the second extra hole and Tom Wright of Rushmere, a county second team player, 2 and 1 at Hintlesham.

Westley will now represent the newspaper on the Portuguese Algarve between November 4 and 11 against the winners of eight other regional newspaper competitions in England and Scotland. The overall title, for which there is a prize of a long weekend for two, probably at Penina, will be decided with Stableford rounds at Morgado, Palmares and Pinta. There will be a practice round at Alamos on the Monday and an optional Texas Scramble on the Saturday at Gramacho.

The tournament headquarters is at the four-star Almansor Hotel at Carvoeiro which is on a cliff top overlooking the sea. A place in the Sunshine Challenge can be booked for £460 excluding flight or £304 for non golfers (tel. 0870 4012020).