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Wolstenholme will try again

THE Brabazon Trophy, one of the most important tournaments in men’s amateur golf, gets underway at the Royal Cinque Ports, Deal, tomorrow.

The English Open Men’s Strokeplay Championship, to give it its full title, has attracted the 12 members of this year’s Walker Cup squad and all eight members of the England Elite Group.

Included in both is defending champion Richard Walker, who won the title so spectacularly at Royal Birkdale last May. Walker, 30, finished birdie-birdie-eagle-par for a closing 67 and 280 to pip Scotland’s Steven O’Hara by a stroke.

The England Elite eight – Walker, Graeme Clark, Richard Finch, Scott Godfrey, Jonathan Lupton, Zane Scotland, Daniel Wardrop, and Gary Wolstenholme – were exempt from pre-qualifying yesterday and today.

Scotland could start favourite after winning the Spanish and Portuguese amateur championships this year, while Wolstenholme followed up his triumph in the South African Amateur Strokeplay by lifting the Berkhamsted Trophy and Hampshire Hog.

And no one will be trying harder to land the trophy than Wolstenholme. The Brabazon has proved elusive for the 41-year-old from Leicestershire and the plus-five handicapper would dearly love to have it in his portfolio. His late father, Guy, won at Ganton in 1960 but despite his many triumphs, including four Walker Cups, Gary’s best Brabazon finish is joint third behind Spain’s Ignacio Garrido at Hollinwell 10 years ago.

There is a strong overseas entry including players from Denmark, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Finland, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and a large contingent from France. Top continental challenge is likely to come from Switzerland’s Raphael de Sousa, the Carris Trophy holder.

It is the third time that the Cinque Ports has hosted the Brabazon, and on both previous occasions it was won by golfers from Essex. The first Brabazon at Deal was in 1964 when Michael Bonallack shot 65 in round two, which remains the amateur course record, to win by four strokes.

The host club will be represented by Peter Hedges and Steve Tiley, a highly promising 19-year-old. Following the first two rounds tomorrow and Saturday, a cut will be made, with the survivors playing the final two rounds on Sunday.

Play starts at 0700 each day and spectators are welcome. Admission is free, and the car park is close to the club house.

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