ASHLEY Mansell has joined many illustrious West Country legends after a wire-to-wire triumph in the West Region Championship at Burnham and Berrow.
After taking a one-shot overnight lead in benign conditions he was able to master the second-day rain and blustery wind to extend his lead and follow the stars who have won the famous Lidgerwood Trophy since 1920.
The 26-year-old Clevedon assistant left Paul Hendriksen (Ivybridge), Sion Bebb (Morlais Castle) and Mark Searle (High Post) flagging four shots behind.
He battled the conditions to post a second-round one-under-par 70 following an opening 67.
‘I am ecstatic about my first Order of Merit win,’ said Mansell. ‘This is the greatest moment of my professional career. It has been an outstanding season since I won the Gloucester and Somerset PGA Championship and Order of Merit in May.
‘Conditions were tough, especially on the outward nine into the wind. I didn’t make any severe mistakes, putted well and always felt in control.’
His steady round contained birdies at the third and 13th and a solitary bogey on the last.
Four pro-am wins, regular top five finishes and strong challenges in all four Order of Merit tournaments means he now holds a commanding lead at the top to make this a season to remember. He also won the assistants’ championship.
Playing partner James Lee (Lansdown), who has played infrequently since winning the PGA Championship at Dundonald in 2009, kept up the pressure until he slipped back with three-putts on the 16th and 17th. He shared fifth with promising left-hander Greg Davies (South Cerney) and defending champion Adam Frayne (Yelverton).
Joint runner-up Bebb, who shot level par, was left frustrated by his putting. ‘I played fantastic golf today and could have been ten under, but I missed 12 putts from inside ten feet as I hit the ball close all day long and my one birdie only came from a 25-footer on the last,’ he said.
Hendriksen, who tasted the thrill of appearing at Wentworth this year, re- mains in contention for a top three finish. He is now third in the rankings after his one under 70.
‘The OoM is a marathon not a sprint so you have to keep playing well every round,’ he said, before flying to Belfast to play on the Challenge Tour, a prize from last season’s play-offs.
Searle maintained the form that earned him a maiden win in the Players Championship and is now fourth. ‘I didn’t do quite enough but it was encouraging to follow up my win with another solid performance,’ he said.
Katie Rule (Mullion), 24, became the women’s champion by finishing six and seven shots ahead of the two previous winners, Lydia Hall (Hensol Golf Academy) and Tracy Loveys (Bigbury), with creditable rounds of 76 and 79.
‘I played really well in those conditions and had to fight my way through wind and rain,’ said Rule. ‘My distance control in putting on the undulating greens was good.’
Former Welsh international Martin Stimson (Ashburnham) turned 50 in January and won the seniors’ title, finishing 13th overall. Home favourite George Ryall led after the first round but was plagued by back trouble and faded.
Max Billingsley (St Kew) shot two-under-par 69, the lowest round of the day, to climb up the leaderboard. He was boosted by an ace when his seven iron tee-shot found the 17th hole.
Michael Watson (Wessex Golf Centre), Chris Gill (Newquay) and Frayne produced outstanding returns of five-under-par 66 to share top spot in the pro-am that preceded the championship.
Watson was out in two un- der with birdies at the fourth and eighth and added four more on the way home, dropping his only shot at the par three 14th.
Frayne produced more of a mixed bag with three bogeys, six birdies and an eagle three at the eighth. Gill was only level after nine but cut loose on the return with five birdies in a back nine of 30.
This was matched by for- mer European Tour winner John Bickerton (Minehead and West Somerset) and James Lee (Lansdown), who shared fourth, one shot be- hind. Greg Davies (South Cerney) and Scott Drummond were a shot further back.
Bickerton claimed the team prize on 91, helped by home players Martin Stephens and Richard Streeter and Weston-super- Mare’s Colin Singleton.
Ashley Mansell (Clevedon) piloted David Glew, John Brown and Wayne Black into second on 90 with Gill, Clive Bicknell, Nigel Dunston and Bert Harper third on 88, beating Watson and Kristian Mowatt (Saunton) on countback.
PGA West Region Championship at Burnham and Berrow
1, Ashley Mansell (Clevedon), 137 (67 70); 2, Paul Hendriksen (Ivybridge) (70 71), Mark Searle (High Post) (70 71), Sion Bebb (Morlais Castle) (70 71), all 141; 3, Greg Davies (South Cerney) (70 72), Adam Frayne (Yelverton) (69 73), James Lee (Lansdown) (68 74), all 142; 4, Matthew Dearden (Vale Resort) (71 72), Ross Whitelock (St Mellion) (70 73), Nick Brennan (Tony Valentine Golf) (70 73), Craig Melding (Neath) (69 74), Barry Austin (Downes Crediton) (69 74), all 143; 5, Martin Stimson (Ashburnham) (70 74), Giuseppe Licata (Chipping Sodbury) (70 74), all 144; 6, Max Billingsley (St Kew), 145 (76 69).
Ladies: 1, Katie Rule (Mullion), 155 (76 79); 2, Lydia Hall (Hensol Golf Academy),161 (78 83); 3, Tracy Loveys (Bigbury), 162 (78 84).