Leigh crowned matchplay champion as he claims second major of the season

LEIGH Williams has been crowned Stamford Golf Club champion after winning a thrilling singles knockout which was not decided until the 36th and final hole.

The 49-year-old from Carrbrook, who edged home by one hole against his friend Simon Reynolds, is looking forward to one of the prizes, a reserved car parking spot for the next 12 months.

It has been a season to remember for Leigh, managing director of a steel company in Mossley, as he also lifted the Rawson Cup earlier in the year, his first-ever major.

He was also runner-up in another major the Barry Sidebottom Memorial Trophy and was leader after the first round of Vice President’s Prize until disaster struck with a nine on the par four third hole in the afternoon.

Leigh, whose handicap was 16 when he won the Rawson Cup, is now playing off nine such has been the improvement in his game.

Leigh Williams

He described winning as “absolutely amazing” to have triumphed after coming through five earlier rounds to reach the final.

“I was quite emotional as it is unheard of somebody like me to win the singles knockout. It is usually the purists (low handicappers) who do so,” he explained.

It was a final to remember with Leigh saying the lead must have changed hands between 15 and 20 times.

He said: “I was never more than two holes ahead and Simon never more than one hole.

“It was unbelievable and showed the strength of character on the part of both of us that it was so close from going out at 9.50am and finishing at 5.30pm when I scored a par on the 36th to win.”

Leigh added winners always need a slice of luck and his came at the 10th hole in the second round when he was one down and hit a shot which plugged into the face of the bunker and impossible to get out.

He said: “There was a stake in the bunker denoting ground under repair, so I got a free drop out of the bunker.

“I won the hole to level the match and that was a massive turning point as I would have been two down and ended up leaving the hole all square.

“Whoever put that stake in the bunker deserves a big hug.”

Leigh, who only plays once a week, puts down his improvement to largely sacrificing Saturday golf to play for Stamford’s B team.

He said: “I did that because I wanted to learn how to win.

“When you are playing for the B team you are playing for the club and your partner. You are also playing against better players.

“My success has stemmed from that as it has shown me how to manage my game better.”

Leigh, who rejoined Stamford five years ago having left earlier because he did not have time through family and work commitments, won the Rawson Cup on the day his beloved Manchester City lost in the final of the Champions League.

He had ordered a bottle of champagne before the round to the amusement of many.

“It was not for the golf, but my wife was coming down to the club in the evening so we could watch City in the Champions League final,” he said at the time.

Leigh, who described himself as competitive, has always been a sportsman.

He was a goalkeeper who played in the youth team and reserves at Stockport County and for East Manchester, Woodley Sports and Glossop.

And at cricket, he played for 25 years at Flowery Field, appearing for both the first and second teams.

CHRIS EXTON claimed his first-ever major as he and Sheila Forshaw landed the mixed doubles matchplay knockout title.

They defeated husband-and-wife Ray and Alison Croll at the first hole of sudden death after it ended all square.

And Chris, 52, an engineer who lives in Chadderton, so nearly made it a double as he and Phil Hudson lost in the final of the doubles’ knockout to Regan Glaister and Andrew Angelone. Again the match was settled at the 19th hole, but this time it was not in his favour.

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