ENGLISH TITLE SUCCESS: Richardson’s final hole birdie is just champion

Simon Richardson with the Champion of Champions Trophy. Picture: Leaderboard Photography
Simon Richardson with the Champion of Champions Trophy. Picture: Leaderboard Photography
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Spalding Golf Club’s Simon Richardson pulled off an astonishing final-hole birdie to shoot four under par 69 and win the English Men’s County Champion of Champions tournament by a stroke.

The championship, held on the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa yesterday (September 17), was reduced to 18 holes after fog delayed the start of play by three hours.

But the slow start was forgotten in a dramatic finish.

Berkshire’s Tim Shin had set the clubhouse target on three-under par, shortly before Richardson reached the last tee on the same mark.

Something special was called for, but the Lincolnshire player’s drive finished on the edge of the left-hand fairway bunker and his second shot clipped a tree and swerved left on to the first fairway. However, from there he got up and down from 149 yards, holing out from about 5ft.

“I just had the feeling that I probably needed to hole that putt,” said Richardson.

But the drama wasn’t over. Nottinghamshire’s Martin Foulkes was also three-under playing the last and his birdie putt to force a play-off just shaved the hole – and Richardson took the title.

He has been county champion four times in the last five years, but this was his third attempt at this title and he won in perfect style, with a bogey-free round.

“To win it in my home county, representing my county, with county president Les Toyne as my caddy, is great,” said Richardson. “It means so much that I could get over the line.”

He had to be patient to get his score.

“I hit it inside 15ft on the first five holes and I was level par,” he said. “My first birdie was on the seventh, where I finally holed from 15ft.”

Another birdie followed on the ninth where his wedge approach finished six inches from the hole and he got to three-under when he rolled in another 15ft putt on the 15th. Then it was time for his magical finish.

Richardson is the full-time manager of an estate agent’s office and takes holiday to play his golf, maintaining a handicap of plus-four and taking fourth place in both the Lytham and Westwood Trophies this season.

Shin, from Castle Royle, and Foulkes, from Worksop, were disappointed but philosophical.

“It is what it is,” said Shin, who has also had a successful season and is county champion for the first time. “I’m gutted not to have won but delighted with the way I played the course,” said Foulkes, a past winner of the English open mid-amateur championship.