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92nd Essex Amateur Golf Championship

Essex County Championship on 10-11th June 2023 at Bentley Golf Club

It was already approaching 20 degrees at 6:45am when the team arrived at Bentley Golf Club on day 1 of the Essex Amateur Championship. Having not seen rain for several weeks, Bentley Golf Club was without an automated watering system leading up to the event, so the staff were forced to water manually. Although this is never ideal, the staff made an exceptional effort in hosting this year’s County Championship, considering the difficulties they had faced in recent
months. Our 72-hole event commenced with a field of 72, with a cut after day 1 to the top 42 players and ties, these then advancing to the Sunday’s final 36 holes.

The three prizes being competed for were the title of County Champion, The Jubilee Trophy for the leading player aged under 21. The third trophy is the Esplen Trophy, competed for on day one of the tournament for the leading
club team. The hot and fiery conditions proved a stern test for most, with only a few players managing to break par on the Saturday morning, this included, defending Champion Shay McQueen (Brentwood), Andrew Rose (The
Warren) & Olly Allison (Colchester) with 1 under par 71s, Ben Humphrey (Chelmsford) & Charlie Rusbridge (Colne Valley) on 70. Jackson Garnett (Five Lakes) returned the morning’s best round with a three under par 69. The second round, played on the Saturday afternoon proved no easier with the average score rising slightly from round 1. Jackson Garnett was overnight leader backing up his opening 69 with a solid 71 for a 140 overnight leading total. Andrew Rose equalled his morning’s 71 for a 142 total, Freddie Warn (Chelmsford) managed a fantastic 69 in the afternoon to match Andrew’s total and to be tied for 2nd overnight. Olly Allison sat in third place with 143 after a level par 72 second round. Charlie Rusbridge managed a 74 to fall back to level for the championship on 144.

The top 42 players and tied were sat on 14 over par after day one so anyone on 15 over par or more had a Sunday to themselves. Sunday’s weather was much of the same, a slight breeze with temperatures nearly reaching 30 degrees. The course was fiery and some fresh pin locations made for a fantastic final day with a good number of players still in contention. Throughout the second day several players jumped in and out of contention. Some players at the top of the leaderboard fell back, others that were a few shots back climbed the board, one of which was Jack Phillips (Bentley). Jack
was sat on 8 over par after the first day, but with scores of 68, 69 on day two, he jumped up into 5th position, beating Freddie Warn on countback, both on +1 for the championship. Another was Orsett’s William Horne, after an opening 72, 80, Will showed his gritty talent and produced a fine 67. It was the low round of the competition, he then backed it up with a 68 in the afternoon for a 135 total, -9 for the day. This propelled Will up to 4th overall and must have made him rue his 80 on day one. Bailee Curran finished strongly, also carding a 67 in his final round for a 286 total (-2), this was good enough for third place overall.

But the weekend had all been about the toing and froing of the lead between Garnett & Rusbridge. Jackson’s opening 74 on the Sunday saw the lead go to Rusbridge after a fine 69 took him to a oneshot lead going into the final round, and what a final round it was. With the stakes high, both players rode the wave as one mistake boosted the other, and one birdie inspired the other to match it. With two holes to play Jackson had a two-shot lead. The 17th was playing about 190 yards and Jackson was to go first after holing a ten-footer on 16 to save his par. He finished left of the green and stymied
behind a tree. After much deliberation, he played a miraculous pitch and run along the side of bunker using the contours to work the ball back towards the hole, finishing about 15 feet from the hole. Narrowly missing his par, he holed out for bogey. Meanwhile, Charlie’s purely struck tee shot never left the flag in the air and after it pitched some 25 feet short of the flag, it checked and released to about two feet. His excellent birdie meant it was all square playing the last. Effectively the sudden death playoff had just started a hole early. Both players on -5 through 71 holes made for a thrilling finale. Charlie to play first, his tee shot started left and hit a tree fortunately bouncing out of the heavy wooded area left of the hole. He was left with around 200 yards in and playing from a buried lie in the rough. Not only this but there was a tree in his way, leaving a slight gap but forcing a shot that required some imagination. Jackson meanwhile was a long way up the hole with little more than a wedge in, advantage Garnett. With a large crowd gathered around the 18th green it was an opportunity for Rusbridge to apply the pressure to Garnett, although he was faced with a tough shot, he delivered with a fantastic shot, fading around the tree and landing a long way short, but using the fiery conditions, the ball bounded up, onto the green and continued to roll to around 20 feet from the flag, advantage Rusbridge. Jackson now with a shot that possibly looked far harder than just a moment ago. Nevertheless, he played it well but like so many shots over the weekend it continued to roll out a little more than expected, finishing around 25 feet on the fringe of the green. After Jackson missed his birdie attempt, Charlie had a putt for the Championship. Narrowly missing, a playoff was to follow, 72 hole insufficient to separate the two county players. Unfortunately, the playoff was not as close as the previous 72 holes, as Charlie was to play first and pulled his tee shot left into a penalty area. Jackson then found a long drive which put him a short distance from the 1st green. After dropping and playing his 3rd shot Charlie knew it was up to Jackson to make an error. With Charlie making 5, Jackson’s par was all that was required, to win the 2023 Essex Amateur Champion. A fantastic effort from both players.

Charlie won the Jubilee Trophy which must have helped on a bittersweet afternoon. The Esplen Trophy was won by Chelmsford GC with Lewis Wright & Michael Gilbert’s total of 297 beating Colchester & Bentley on Countback.

The prizes were presented in evening sunshine by Lawrence Kingsnorth, Essex Golf Union President. Lawrence thanked Bentley Golf Club, their staff, and the members of Bentley for offering us their facilities in hosting our County Championship. A special mention also to the green-keeping staff who had tirelessly worked on the course over the weeks leading up to the event.

Next year we head to Chelmsford for our Centenary Year County Championship.

Martin Webb is a keen amateur golfer and has been the editor of Suffolk Norfolk & Essex Golf Magazine since 2023.

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