CUMBERWELL Park’s golf manager Ali James shocked seasoned professionals with another fine display of scoring in the West Region PGA Championship over his home course.
The former Wiltshire county captain posted a five-under-par 66 to share the halfway lead with man-of-the-moment Michael Watson (Wessex Golf Centre, Weymouth).
Three years ago 31-year-old James, a 6ft 4in big-hitter who knows every blade of grass on the course built by his family more than 20 years ago, became the first amateur for six years to win a West Region PGA order of merit tournament before Liam Bond (Marriott St Pierre) emerged on top in the last two years.
His reward was going out in the final three-ball in the second round, alongside Watson and Ryder Cup winner Phillip Price, one of the many European Tour stars on view, who also played alongside him on the opening day in the event sponsored by Lansdown Mazda..
“It was a great experience and I couldn’t stop talking to him about his Ryder Cup experiences,” he said after a second round level par 71.
James who played the back nine in four-under-par was delighted with his return of five-under 137 to finish joint sixth.
“He was great company and you couldn’t wish for a nicer playing partner. This was another great event for Cumberwell Park and there are more exciting times ahead here.”
Price opened with 67 and then again plotted his way diligently round a course he had never seen before to finish on seven-under-par 135.
He said: “I’ve had a great time, this is a beautiful place and I am delighted to have come so close to winning. It was a pleasure playing for two days with Ali. He played lovely on the first day.”
He had to settle for second place one shot behind fellow Welshman Richard Dinsdale from the Parc Golf Academy in Newport.
After making a triple bogey seven at tough par-four 15th a three-putt bogey at the next, Dinsdale said: “I thought I had thrown the championship away and was totally dejected.”
But sadness turned to joy when he drove to the front of the 320-yard 17th green and chipped in for the winning eagle two.
Welsh national champion and European Tour winner Stephen Dodd followed an opening 69 with the only error-free round of the second day, carding 14 pars and four birdies. He shared third on 136 with Watson and Lee Thompson (Dudsbury).
John Jacobs, Cumberwell's director of golf who made the prize presentations, said: “We are getting better and better at organisation here and were really pleased with the quality of the field here.
"European Tour players and Senior Tour players appreciate the course and hard work put in by the greenstaff.
“They enjoy playing here and it’s a scoreable course where they enjoy getting plenty of birdies. This has been another exercise in raising the profile of this club.
"The members are lifted by the quality of events we attract here and are fully supportive.”
In the pre-tournament Pro Am, last year’s Order of Merit winner Liam Bond (Marriott St Pierre) shot six-under-par 65 to shared first place with Dorset pair Mark Wiggett (Dudsbury) and Paul Jones (Canford Magna) in an event supported by Lansdown Mazda.
Russ Berry (Professional Golf Europe Ltd) led a Travis Perkins team of Tommy Atkins, Alan Pilkington and Andy Potepa to 18-under-par 124 as top prize winners.
Wiggett’s team from Dudsbury, Sean Reynolds, Dan Cullum and general manager Paul Palmer, were one shot behind while Andrew Sherborne (Trevose) piloted another Travis Perkins team of Peter Hall, Dave Castle and Neil Harding into third on 127.
Selected scores: 140 Daniel Carter (Upavon) 72 68, Edward Goodwin (Cirencester) 69 71, Barry Forster (North Wilts) 69 71,141 Ben Lloyd (Cumberwell Park) 71 70, Ross Langdon (South Cerney) 70 71, Alex Todd (Farrington Park) 69 72, 142 Stuart Little (Minchinhampton) 71 71, 142 Ross McCance (Chippenham Golf Centre) 69 73, 143 Nick Brennan (Bowood Golf & Country Club) 68 75, 144 Alex Blewett (Cumberwell Park) 73 71, 145 Alex Pike (Cumberwell Park) 72 73, 146 James Hannam (Bath Golf Club) 69 77.
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