INSURANCE manager Marc Smith staked his claim to a place in the Lombard Trophy Final at Gleneagles with victory in the regional qualifying event at Coventry Golf Club.
The Stoke-on-Trent amateur teamed up with PGA pro David Cooper, from Newcastle under Lyme Golf Club. They won by just one shot ahead of former champion Ian Walley and Paul Dransfield of Kedleston Park and Leigh Woodward and Neil Ratcliffe from Sinfin.
Cooper and Smith carded an eight-under-par round of 65 and could even afford to drop a shot at the 18th hole. They will now play in the £80,000 final played over the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles between September 1-2. And for Smith, who plays off a handicap of four, a visit to the famous Ryder Cup venue was a reward for hours of practice. “I try and play maybe four or five times a week,” said the 37-year-old from Lightwood.
“I work at getting my handicap down, it was three at the start of the year and has gone up now. But I’ve been playing for around 15 or 16 years.”
Smith explained he gave up football before taking up golf. “I was playing locally, Saturdays and Sunday mornings, but I was picking up injuries and eventually turned to golf,” he said.
“I actually didn’t like it at first! I’d never played on a full size course and it took a while for me to get into it.
“But I stuck at it, worked hard and then I was bitten by the golf bug.”
Smith admitted they only knew what they needed to beat with three holes remaining. “We’d had two really good spells and got to nine-under-par, and then we found out we had to beat seven-under-par.
“It was a case of staying calm and although we dropped a shot at the final hole, there was no great damage done. I’ve never played Gleneagles before so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Cooper will be taking part in his first final and is hoping the conditions are better than they were for his last visit to Gleneagles.
“A group of us went up there and could only play a couple of holes, the wind was that bad, trees being blown down, everything,” he recalled.
“I hope the weather improves this time.
“We played well at Coventry and mixed things up nicely. But three birdies in a row followed by an eagle after the turn was decisive for us.”
Pictured are David Cooper and amateur Marc Smith. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images.