England’s Nick Poppleton won the Brabazon Trophy in dramatic style when he chipped in on the second play-off hole at Frilford Heath Golf Club, Oxfordshire.
South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber - who had tied with Poppleton on 16-under - tried to equal him. But his shot to keep the championship alive hit the hole and lipped out.
It was an exciting finale to a day of superb golf with low scores which included a course record 63 – and a magical eagle which set up Poppleton’s victory in the Englishmen’s open stroke play championship.
The 24-year-old, from Wath, was chasing Nienaber for most of the final round. The South African No 1 had blitzed round in the morning in seven-under 65 to get to 13-under after 54 holes, two clear of Poppleton. Nienaber set off like a rocket in the afternoon. He was five-under after seven holes, 18 under par and, at this stage, five shots clear of Poppleton. But a bogey on the short 11th, where he missed the green, and a double bogey on 14 where he lost his drive in the gorse, pulled him back to 15-under.
Poppleton got to 14-under after 12 holes. He needed something more – and he took his chance on the par four 16th, driving the green and holing a 15-footer for an eagle two.
“You need something like that to get you across the line and that was the turning point,” he said. At 16-under par he had overtaken his rival. But Nienaber wasn’t finished. He slotted an eight-footer for birdie on the last to force the play off.
The title was decided on the par three ninth. Both players missed the green both times they played it – but compensated with stunning chip shots which delighted the spectators.
This is Poppleton’s first international title and he said: “It means a lot, this is the pinnacle of stroke play for England Golf and a lot of fantastic players have won this.”
He added: “it’s nice to start the season off hot. I’ve had a couple of seasons when I came out really slowly so it’s good to get one early.” He was accompanied throughout the championship by caddie Alex Stubbs, who was also on the bag when he reached the semi-finals of last year’s English Amateur.
The final day of the championship was marked by low scoring. Andrew Wilson (Darlington) set a new course record of nine-under 63 in the third round, which propelled him into contention.
In the final round, Bailey Gill (Lindrick) shot 67 to finish on 13-under and climb into a tie for third place with Jack Cope, (pictured below) whose putter warmed up over the back nine and helped him to a closing 69.
Cope (The Players Club) also won the Henriques Salver, awarded to the best player from GB&I, aged under 20 on the first day of the championship. He was four clear of Arrun Singh Brar (Parkstone).