American Brady Exber, one ahead at the start of the final round, overcame challenging conditions to pull away from the field and win the Seniors Amateur Championship at Ganton in North Yorkshire today.
The 58-year-old from Las Vegas closed with a 78 for a four-shot victory over Yorkshire’s Stephen East who finished on 228 after a 79.Three players shared third – Americans Michael Mercier and John McClure and England’s Tony McLure.
With the wind gusting up to 40mph, it turned into a taxing final 18 holes for the entire field but Exber, who was fifth on his debut in 2011 and sixth in 2012, played outstanding golf for the first 12 holes and was never seriously threatened.
Exber started with six straight pars and he had a great bogey at the seventh, getting up and down after taking a penalty shot from a bush. He dropped another shot at the eighth but then birdied the 12th from four feet.
His poor run started at the relatively straightforward 14th. In the middle of the fairway, he hit his approach into a bunker and then three-putted for a double-bogey six. Although he dropped several shots in the closing holes, his rivals were doing the same in the gusting winds.
“I was playing great but then made the mistake of looking at the leaderboard at the 13th,” he said. “I was seven ahead and then I stupidly stopped playing the course and started to play the scoreboards. And that doesn’t work.
“But I really think this is the hardest day I have had on a golf course. I said to my friend and caddie, Doug, going down the 15th ‘this is all the nasty stuff I’ve seen on TV’.
East, from Moortown in Leeds, admitted it had been “a tough battle” but was happy to finish second on his Championship debut. A newcomer to the Seniors events, he has already won the Spanish Seniors Open and the English Seniors this season.
George Zahringer, the defending champion, made an appearance on the leaderboard when he reached the turn in an outstanding two-under-par. He had four birdies – at the second, fifth, seventh and ninth.
But the American, who played in the 2003 Walker Cup at Ganton and won this title at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago, came to grief in a second half of 44. He shot 81 and finished in a tie for 20th.
Mercier moved into third place thanks to a 76, while John McClure had an 80 and Tony McLure an 82. McLure opened with a 70 and was the only man all week to break par. He looked set for second place when he stood just three shots behind playing partner Exber with two holes to play. But he had a double-bogey five after a wayward tee shot at the 235-yard par three 17th and also took a double-bogey at the 18th.
It was a delighted and relieved Exber who raised the trophy after the final round. “No one could be happier than me to win this title,” he said. “Ganton is a great course and I’ll definitely be back to defend at Royal County Down next year”. The 2015 Seniors Amateur will be played at Royal County Down Golf Club from 5-7 August.