A 59-alert flashed this morning at England’s Sunningdale Golf Club, as English teenager Zach Little rattled off a string of five-straight birdies on the front nine en route to a 29. Without a single blemish coming home, Little came home in 34 for a round of 63, just one off the course record of 62.
Then it was the waiting game. And it looked good for an outright victory from the unlikely leader until the very last group of two Irish golfers approached the 18th tee. Liam Nolan, the winner of the South American Amateur and a GB&I Walker Cup hopeful, knew exactly what he had to do on the reachable par-5 of 488 yards. But even with the tying birdie, it would take three extra holes to grab the trophy out of the hands from England’s Zach Little.
HOW IT WENT DOWN
Sean Keeling of Ireland played the first 54 holes at 6-under, never going over par and looking like a runaway winner. But tight courses with tricky greens can bite back.
As the Irish bogeyed the first three holes, the landscape of the tournament had suddenly done a complete 180. And although he settled down with a birdie on No. 6, Keeling again bogeyed at Nos. 7 and 8 and dropped out of the lead, taking himself out of the running for good with a triple-bogey on No. 1.
But Keeling’s countryman Liam Nolan (Galway, Ireland) — playing alongside him in the final group — worked himself within a shot after posting 1-under 34 on the front nine.
Little watched player after player finish, without matching his tournament total of 3-under par. James Claridge of England birdied No. 18 to get to 2-under. One bullet dodged.
But Nolan refused to give up. Standing on the par-5 18th tee at 2-under, he was a birdie away from forcing a playoff on the 488-yard hole. He got it, and just like that, a person who held the lead for more than two hours after a stunning round would have to go out and face someone coming off a birdie.
Although it was Ireland’s Nolan winning this time, both players won the admiration of the host association — England Golf — and members and spectators at Sunningdale Golf Club.
The 2023 English Open Stroke Play Championship is being played this year Sunningdale Golf Club’s New Course. But keep in mind “new” is all relative. It is 22 years newer than the original Willie Park Old Course, but with a 1923 opening date, it would be considered anything but new by most golf fans as the Harry Colt design celebrates 100 years of golf. The New Course is a precision layout, with its narrow, winding fairways bordered by penal heather. Small and often raised greens add to the challenge.
View results for Brabazon Trophy
ABOUT THE Brabazon Trophy
The Brabazon Trophy is the English Men’s Open
Amateur Stroke Play Championship and is open to male
amateur golfers of all nationalities.
The Championship is played by 72 holes of stroke play
over four days and will be contested by 144
competitors, consisting of exempt players and those
who have progressed through qualifying. 18 holes are
played on each of the first two days. After 36 holes the
leading 60 competitors and all those tying for 60th
place shall play a further 18 holes on the third day,
followed by a re-draw and a final 18 holes on the fourth
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