Shooting rounds of 65 and 69 around Cuddington for an eight-under-par total of 134*, Canterbury’s Richard Wallis overcame the first rain for weeks, the occasional fiery bounce and a two hole play-off against his colleague Peter Appleyard from Sittingbourne (69, 66), to record another victory in the PGA Southern Open Championship.
Delighted to reclaim the title he’d won back in 2010 and 2011, Wallis had to produce some magic to win the play-off. Tied in third place were Andy Raitt (70, 66, St. George’s Hill), Craig Sutherland (68, 68, Cherry Lodge) and Gregg Blainey (67, 69, Billingbear Park).
After making a flawless six-under-par 65 around a fiery Cuddington course hardened by weeks of warm weather, Wallis lead the first round with fellow Kent PGA Professional, Pentland Golf’s Benn Barham.
Wallis admitted to nerves as he teed off for the final round: “I was quite nervous today, as I haven’t been in the hunt at a major for some while. I made a great start with two birdies down the first and second, but things went a bit pear-shaped at five and six where I made bogey then lost a ball for a double.”
But the former four time Virgin Atlantic PGA South Order of Merit champion bounced right back with two terrific birdies, a deuce at the eighth and a three at the ninth. Another at the 12th and then the 17th put him a shot in front, but a bogey up the 18th left Wallis tied with Appleyard whose impressive second round five-under-par 66 was only equalled by Raitt.
Wallis continued: “We had brief spells of rain interrupt things four times, so Peter’s and Andy’s cards of 66 look amazing. It was very linksy out there, so we were trying land shots short and hope for the right bounce.” In the play off, down the par five first both players needed just an eight iron for their second shots from semi-rough; Appleyard did well to get up and down from the back of the green to stay level with Wallis’s two putt par.
Up the 18th, Wallis’s drive kicked hard left leaving him in a dell and having to get a 137 yard shot airborne fast while keeping it below the bows of the trees in front and turning leftwards back to the green. Committed to making the shot, Wallis made a great recovery to finish 10 feet away pin high.
Appleyard’s wedge left him a viciously fast 30 footer sliding downhill left, rolling six feet past. Seeing the speed, Wallis allowed three feet of break and holed for three to snatch the title and a £2,000 cheque.
At the year’s mid-point, Wallis’ win will extend his PGA South Money List** lead, and propel him up the Virgin Atlantic PGA South Order of Merit*** standings. But there is still plenty of action to come, and Wallis and the rest of the South Region’s PGA Professionals are eyeing up the next Order of Merit event, the PGA Surrey Open Championship, at Clandon Regis on July 27th and 28th.