Stuart Little turned the clock back 18 years in winning the Marston’s Brewery Finale ‘Order of Merit’ tournament with two scintillating rounds at The Point at Polzeath in North Cornwall.
The Minchinhampton teaching professional’s last ‘OoM’ success was winning the West Region Championship for the third time in 1999 by three strokes at Puckrup Hall, the same year that he clinched the ‘OoM’ title for the third successive time.
Despite being the third-oldest player in the field, after just turning 50, the former European Tour player again finished three clear of the field on 133, after an opening seven-under-par 65 which would have set a course record had the lift, clean and place rule not been used. He followed with 68.
His exhausting day’s work was worth £1,300, his biggest cheque for several years.
Although it was cold, and the wind freshened later, he seldom looked like dropping a shot before lunch. The powerful left-hander made seven birdies, five in a back nine of 31, and 11 pars. His only bogey came from a three-putt at the third hole in the afternoon round which featured four more birdies. He felt his second round was the best in view of the worsening conditions.
“I am very happy,” he said. “I know what I am capable of achieving and for the first time in a while I managed to bring my whole game to the course.
“I drove well, hit greens in regulation and holed my fair share of putts. It was an advantage having played a couple of rounds on the course as there are a couple of blind shots and the greens can be subtly difficult.”
He tackled the 36 holes in a day with ease. “I’m as strong as an ox,” he said. “I was a little bit concerned about my back which has not been great in what has been a terrible sea- son by my standards, but it was fine.”
Plymouth’s Scott Drummond, the 2004 PGA champion at Wentworth, was runner-up after two four-under-rounds of 68 to finish three shots ahead of Welshman Matt Dearden (The Vale, Cardiff), 139 (67, 72).
Drummond signed for ten birdies and eagled the opening hole in the second round. Dearden also carded ten birdies and an eagle at the 15th. Hendriksen made four birdies in a faultless first round and then three more later as well as three bogeys.
Chris Gill (Newquay) made the best recovery with 68 after an open- ing 78. Harper also shone with a best-of-the-afternoon 67.
‘Order of Merit’ leader Ashley Mansell (Clevedon) retained his 50-point advantage over nearest challenger Sion Bebb (Morlais Castle, Merthyr Tydfil) as both players shared fifth alongside Kevin Harper (East Devon) and Ross Whitelock (St Mellion) on three-under 141.
The consistent Paul Hendriksen (Ivybridge), whose ambition this summer was to qualify again for the play-offs and hope to win another ticket to Wentworth, fulfilled his dream. His fourth place on 140 (68, 72) clinched his spot again.
West secretary Robert Moss was high in his praise of the condition of the course and greens after a period of rain. He warmly thanked Polzeath owner Jeremy Davies by linking up with the PGA to raise the profile of the North Cornwall club. He also commended Marston’s Brewery for sponsoring both the Finale and also the ‘Order of Merit’.
LEADING SCORES: 133, Stuart Little (Minchin- hampton), 65, 68 (£1,300); 136, Scott Drum- mond (Plymouth), 68, 68 (£1,000); 139, Matthew Dearden (The Vale), 67, 72 (£800); 140, Paul Hendriksen (Ivybridge), 68, 72 (£650); 141, Kevin Harper (East Devon), 74, 67; Ross Whitelock (St Mellion), 72, 69; Sion Bebb (Mor- lais Castle), 71, 70; Ashley Mansell (Clevedon), 70, 71 (all £387 each); 143, Jon Bevan (Sher- borne), 73, 70 (£250); 145, Tom Hanson (Tiver- ton), 73, 72; Alex Higgs (Stinchcombe Hill), 71, 74; Lee Thompson (Dudsbury), 73, 72 (£195 each); 146, Adam Frayne (Yelverton), 73, 73; Michael Watson (Wessex Golf Centre); 73, 73; Chris Gill (Newquay), 78, 68 (£180 each).