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Majestic Golf and Magnificent Celebrities Cap a Spectacular 2012 Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship
For four straight days, the Cromwell Course at Nailcote Hall in Warwickshire was bathed in glorious August sunshine as golfing legends, current tour stars and celebrities alike gathered in the Midlands for an action packed week of golfing excellence, drama and entertainment on the course widely considered as the best Par 3 course in the world.
The superb field of players at this year’s championship was spear-headed by Tony Jacklin CBE, Ian Woosnam OBE and Alison Nicholas MBE, making the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship undoubtedly the world’s leading tournament for Par 3 golf. Between them, the players that gathered at Nailcote Hall boasted an impressive 8 major titles and over 200 European Tour, European Senior Tour, PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Challenge Tour titles.
In this Ryder Cup year, there was also a special emphasis on Ryder Cup legends and the illustrious field had competed in a massive 38 Ryder cups, including 6 Ryder cup trophies and 2 Ryder cup captains. The strength of the international field who gathered at Nailcote Hall was better than ever this year, including players from around the world, including Jamaica’s three time World Cup of Golf player Delroy Cambridge, Zimbabwe’s 6-time European Tour winner Tony Johnstone and former US Senior Open Champion Larry Laoretti, from the USA. Ireland was represented by 8 time winner on the European Tour, Des Smyth and Golf Channel Big Break Ireland 2011 winner Mark Murphy.
On the first day of the championship, celebrities battled it out alongside amateur partners for the Celeb-Am prize and also an individual celebrity tournament. This was won by six-time Walker Cup player and European Senior Tour star Gary Wolstenholme MBE, who continued the form that has seen him pick up two victories already this season by shooting a sizzling -4 round of 50. Gary birdied four consecutive holes from the 3rd, including the notorious fifth hole. Also performing well in the first day of the championship were football legends Matthew Le Tissier and Peter Schmeichel MBE, alongside event host Tony Jacklin CBE and Mark Murphy, who all finished in the Top 5.
With the Sky Sports cameras rolling, professional and amateur competitors alike would have been forgiven for feeling a little nervous as they took to the course for the Pro-Am competition. With SkyBet offering odds for the professional winner for the first time in the event’s history, the odds were definitely on for a fantastic tournament. As an early starter on Wednesday morning in the Pro-Am event, it didn’t take long before Wolstenholme got on the birdie trail again, making birdies early in his round and finishing on -2. He was joined under the card by fellow European Senior Tour star D J Russell and current European Tour favourite Gary Boyd, who both finished on -4. However, it was Jamega Tour regular Simon Lilly, from Wellingborough, who made the greatest impression on the first day leaderboard, shooting a sensational -7 47 to take a three shot lead into the final day of the Pro-Am.
Wednesday Night is the Players Banquet, an opportunity for competitors, celebrities and VIPs to relax together and enjoy fantastic food and entertainment. Willie Thorne hosted an intimate Question and Answer with Tony Jacklin CBE and Ian Woosnam OBE, a fascinating insight into what it takes to perform at the very top of the game, winning major championships and captaining Europe to Ryder Cup success. Both players were exceptionally generous in their responses, talking openly and candidly to the audience of fellow professionals and VIP guests. This was followed by a magnificently raucous and hilarious set by legendary stand-up Bobby Davro.123630
With blistering sunshine continuing to bathe the Cromwell Course, the competition heated up for a classic “battle in the sun” on Thursday, as record numbers of spectators arrived at the course to watch stars such as Tony Jacklin CBE, Ian Woosnam OBE, Brian Barnes, Alison Nicholas MBE, Tommy Horton MBE, Maurice Bembridge, Gary Boyd, Marc Warren, Tommy Fleetwood, Scott Drummond, Andrew Oldcorn and home favourite Mark Mouland. It was Oldcorn, the 2001 Volvo PGA Champion, who secured the biggest cheer of the early starters when he began to light up the course around the turn, lipping out of the hole with his tee-shot on the 7th and going one better at the 8th when his gap wedge spun back into the cup for a hole in one, winning a 7 night luxury stay in a penthouse apartment in Spain.
Mark Murphy recaptured the form he showed on Tuesday when he scored a best round of the day with a -5 par 49, to surge up to the upper echelons of the leaderboard. The Super Seniors prize for the leading player over the age of 60 was won by 6-time Ryder Cup player Brian Barnes, who played superbly consistent golf over the two days of the championship to finish on level par, one shot clear of Larry Laoretti and two shots clear of fellow former Ryder Cup stars Tommy Horton and Malcolm Gregson. The victory was particularly emotional for Barnes, who was playing in his first professional tournament for 12 years after having to retire due to Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is now in remission.
At the other end of her career, the Norma C Herd Silver Salver for the leading amateur in the competition was won by Curtis Cup star Charley Hull, on a score of -1 for the two days. Displaying her prodigious talent with some exceptional golf over the course of the championship, Hull demonstrated why she is widely tipped as a superstar of the future. In second position for the leading amateur at the championship was 13 year old Tom Charley, who scored impressive rounds of +2 and +3 to put his stamp on the championship. The Halliwell Cup for the Pro-Am team was won by D J Russell and his partner James Graham, with Simon Lilly and his partner Graham Curtin finishing in second spot.
When the leaders went out on Thursday afternoon, the stage was set for a classic climax and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Lilly started well with a birdie at the first, and looked secure out in front for much of the round, but succumbed to a double bogey at the 11th and a bogey on the 12th, where the newly developed water feature sank his challenge. Meanwhile, a burst from two time winner on the European Tour D J Russell put him in pole position for the victory. Russell was playing exceptional golf, especially at the finish, securing birdies at the 14th, 15th and 17th, to finish the round on -8, three shots clear of Lilly on -5 and a further two shots clear of Wolstenholme and Murphy on -3. The win made Russell the oldest ever winner of the championship and his -8 winning total was the best winning score recorded in the championship’s history at Nailcote Hall, surpassing the efforts of Shaun P Webster and Carl Mason.
However, Murphy would get another chance for success on the Cromwell Course in the Celeb Am on Friday. Starting at 8.30 am, Murphy continued his impressive form from the previous day with a -4 score of 50, which was enough to hold off competition from Gary Wolstenholme and former Manchester United footballer Clayton Blackmore to secure the Celeb Am prize, which he handed over to Blackmore in a wonderful gesture of sportsmanship.
On both Tuesday and Friday evenings, Nailcote Hall hosted glamorous Celebrity Charity Balls. With Snooker legend Willie Thorne as master of ceremonies for the evenings, a huge amount of money was raised for Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, through fundraising activities including a charity auction with sensational sporting and celebrity memorabilia and truly “money can’t buy” prizes, including a hospitality package to see George Michael at the NEC, tickets to see Piers Morgan’s Life Stories being filmed and a chance to play the new Trump Course in Aberdeen with 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie MBE. Just some of the breathtaking array of celebrities who participated in the championship over the course of the four days this year included Strictly Come Dancing star Len Goodman, football legends Peter Shilton OBE, Peter Schmeichel MBE, Matthew Le Tissier, Alan McInally, Peter Withe and John Jensen, cricket legends Mike Procter and Matthew Hoggard MBE and comedian Jasper Carrott OBE.
With drama, emotion, fun and amazing stories everywhere you looked, the 2012 Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship was a truly amazing championship that will not quickly be forgotten by the thousands of spectators who attended it. Now all that remains is for work to start on the 2013 championship, which will take place on August 6th-9th.
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