IT requires something special to win major championships and Wiltshire's Ben Stow delivered that aplenty to win the Brabazon Trophy in record style in front of a cheering crowd at Seaton Carew.
Birdies at the final two holes for a record-equalling 66 gave the East Knoyle man an aggregate of 278, 14 under par, and left him just a shot ahead of his England teammates Ryan Evans and Ashley Chesters.
It was the second year in a row that a Wiltshire player won the English amateur strokeplay championship event, following the victory of Bowood's Jordan Smith last year. Smith shot 75 today to finish three over par for the tournament.
“This is an amazing feeling after an amazing round,” he said. “This is a massive win for me. Apart from the Amateur Championship it doesn’t come much bigger than to win this English title.
“Some days it is your day and it was mine today. I putted phenomenally. It just looked like the ball would drop in all day long. I had no idea how many I was under par but today was up there with some of the best golf I’ve ever played.”
Stow is back from college in the United States but did his experience there help provide this triumph? “I won in South Carolina in a playoff and to have that experience certainly helped over those last few holes.”
The leaders certainly enjoyed the better conditions. The day began dull with a chilly wind but as the sun broke through to the birdies began to flow. Stow started tied on seven under with Evans and Ireland’s Cormac Sharvin. But he took a grip early on with birdies at the first two holes, set a hot pace by going out in 30 strokes and was soon the man to chase.
His biggest threat seemed to come from Chesters. The European champion had three birdies in a front nine of 32 and after another at 11 he reeled off four-in-a-row from the 13th. That put him on 14 under and he might be the Brabazon champion now if it hadn’t been for a lone bogey at the par four 17th.
“I was between clubs and pulled my shot into heavy rough which proved costly,” he said. “But I holed a couple of key putts. The one for birdie at 15 from 50 feet was probably heading off the green until it dropped. Then at 16 I sank a 20-footer for birdie.
“I thought Ben, playing behind me, was also making birdies so I just tried to get as low as possible. If it wasn’t for that bogey at 17 that was the best round I’ve played. When I won the European I shot 65, seven under, and didn’t hit a bad shot. But there were one or two iffy ones today.”
Evans, who had seven birdies in his 67, was naturally disappointed but he paid tribute to his team-mate. “Hats off to Ben, it was a great finish by him,” he said. “Coming down the last I heard the cheering but I didn’t know if it was Ben or Craig Ross had holed for birdie.
“If I had shot 67 anywhere else I’d expect to win but if someone had offered me second place before the start I’d have taken it. “I felt it was going to be my week but not winning could put me out of the running for a place in the Eisenhower Trophy team. That’s important but we’ll have to see.”