It was a dull morning when the players and officials arrived at the Ely City golf club for the 70th running of this prestigious championship. High winds and heavy rain was the forecast for later that morning. In attendance, as part of the refereeing team, was Andrew Blows who first won the championship in 1964 some 55 years ago.
Early scores indicated that the cream of the County’s golfers were finding conditions difficult. Early leader was Louis Martin from Saffron Walden with a creditable 5 over par 77. Louis has this season, changed his alliance from Suffolk to Cambridgeshire and is a past Suffolk match play champion.
It wasn’t long after the players had gone out before the rain started to fall steadily but at around 12:45pm it was raining stair rods and the greens were rapidly becoming unplayable. The siren to suspend play was sounded, and the rain soaked competitors that were still on the course, trudged back to the shelter of the club house.
Play was suspended for approximately one hour 20 minutes which gave the competitors valuable time to dry out their clubs and change their clothes – if they had a spare set with them.
The first round was completed in a light drizzle and the leader with a fantastic round of 72 was former champion Ed Dimambro from the Gog Magog GC. Ed managed 2 birdies, 14 pars and only 2 bogeys in atrocious conditions. Three shots behind on 75 were local member Luke Ryan, Paul Hodgkin from the Ramsey GC and Olly Tuck from Saffron Walden. Olly had an unfortunate quadruple bogey 8 on the 5th hole but fought back to play the remaining 13 holes in 2 under par.
The weather brightened up for the afternoon round and the scores improved with Paul Hodgkin returning a 70 gross for a share of the lead on 145 with Ed Dimambro at the halfway stage. Three shots behind was Luke Ryan with former County Captain Owen Davies seeking his first County Championship title on 152.
The next morning was bathed in sunshine early doors and the course looked in wonderful condition and made for some good scoring. Ely member Shane Hornsey came in with a fine 71 but was too far back in the field to make any impression on the leaders.
Poor Ed Dimambro had a horrid front nine dropping 6 shots on the outward nine but rallying on the back nine to record 77. The other two in the threesome played steady golf with Paul Hodgkin scoring a 73 and Ely’s Luke Ryan with a very steady 71. The best score of the 3 rd round went to Owen Davies with an excellent 69 that included 6 birdies.
The leaders going into the final round were
- P Hodgkin 218
- O Davies 219
- L Ryan 219
- E Dimambro 222
Luke Ryan shot into the lead after only four holes with birdies at 1, 3 & 4 while Paul Hodgkin slipped back with a double bogey at the 5 th hole. Owen Davies came back to the leader with birdies at 8 & 9. It was all nip and tuck between these three County players on the back nine holes as Ed Dimambro fell out of contention and again looked out of sorts in the final round.
After 70 holes Ryan and Davies were level on +2 with Hodgkin on +3. Owen Davies was in the group ahead of the other two and after missing a 3 foot birdie putt on the 17th green, hit a wonderful 4 iron from 210 yards to the 18th green that never left the stick. Unfortunately it finished just through the green and when he failed to get down in two
strokes from there he opened the door for the Ely man.
Luke missed the green short left but a deft chip stone dead and he was crowned Champion for the first time. His father Terry was over the moon at Luke’s victory having been a County player himself for over 30 years without winning the Championship. It was sad to see Owen come so close once again but in Luke Ryan the County has a worthy champion for 2019.
Finishing In 3rd place was Paul Hodgkin who also won the January Cup for the best net score on the Saturday , consolation for coming close to winning the Championship. Jumping up to 4th place following an impressive 70, was Nick Smits of Gog Magog who showed positive signs of returning to the form he showed when he first arrived in the County from Nevada in 2015.
The Championship Shield was won by the Gog Magog team of Ed Dimambro, Ollie Rust and Tom Rogers, with Ely City in 2nd place and Saffron Walden 3rd . They now go on to represent CAGU in the English Champion Club tournament at Romford GC in September.
Ely City Golf Club are to be congratulated on producing a first class course for the Championship and special thanks must go to Club Manager Matthew for all his hard work throughout the weekend. The hospitality shown to all the players and officials was 1st class from Captain Stan Nixon and the food produced by caterer Martin was excellent.
A special mention for the greenkeeper and his staff for coming out on a Saturday lunchtime to clear the rainwater off the greens and make the course playable again after the deluge of rain.
Next year’s Championship takes place on the 13/14 June at the Gog Magog GC.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Diss Photography.