LEIGHTON THOMAS drove his way to an outstanding victory in the SafeSol Kingarth Open at Bute Golf Club on Saturday.
The Rothesay taxi driver, who has now seen his handicap tumble from 22 to 13 in just eight months, recorded his most impressive golfing success so far thanks to a new driver.
Thomas, whose multiple trophy wins in the past year have earned him the epithet of ‘The Welsh Wizard’, attributed the victory to accuracy from the tee.
“I previously had to fight to control a big slice – but my new ‘Nike Str8’ driver certainly lived up to its name on Sunday,” he said. “It led to my best game of golf in ages.”
In addition to adding the Middleton Cup to his six previous silverware successes, Thomas lifted the top prize of a £100 voucher.
Playing off a handicap of 15 – which was cut by two strokes after his Open success – Thomas returned an excellent net 62 to lead the field of 42 players by two shots.
On a day of difficult conditions, as an easterly wind and intermittent showers swept the course, he was the only competitor to beat the standard scratch score of 64.
Thomas also led the Bute Golf Club contingent to their best-ever performance in the tournament, which saw five ‘home’ players among the major honours.
It was a case of so near and yet so far again for Graham McArthur (6), who followed up last year’s success in winning the scratch prize when he led the way in the scratch-to-10 handicap section with net 64 after a gross 70, while clubmates Jim McKirdy, Stuart Wilson and Cammy Middleton were the other leading winners for the host club.
It was left to George Reynolds and Steven McDonald to carry the flag for Rothesay, with Reynolds lifting the scratch prize of a voucher for £50 with a one-under-par 67.
After a first nine of 36, the one-handicapper came to life over the back nine, powering his way to victory with a flawless inward half of 31, comprised of three birdies and six pars.
Reynolds also enjoyed the double bonus of taking the nearest-the-pin and longest drive prizes in the scratch-to-10 handicap section.
Former trophy winner McDonald (6) took second place in the scratch-to-10 handicap section with net 66.
Holidaymaker Alan Beetham (14) of Bothwell Castle led the way in the 11-18 handicap section with a net score of 70.
Bute club captain Alastair McFarlane said: “Despite the disappointing weather the event was as successful as ever and our thanks are due to all players who braved the conditions to take part.
“We are especially grateful to Harry Lymburn, managing director of SafeSol Ltd, as main sponsor of the event, and to Stephen Thomas of Stephen Thomas Financial Services, for providing the special prizes. Their generosity is much appreciated.
“It was also gratifying to hear so many positive remarks from players about the continuing improvement of the course. Thanks also go to greenkeepers Jim Speirs and Joe McCabe for their efforts in this respect.”
Prize list as follows.
Overall winner – L. Thomas (15) 62. Scratch – G. Reynolds 67.
Scr-10 – 1 G. McArthur (6) 64; 2 S. McDonald (6) 66 bih; 3 J. McKirdy (8) 66. Nearest the pin: G. Reynolds. Longest drive: G. Reynolds.
11-18 – 1 A. Beetham (14) 70 bih; 2 S. Wilson (18) 70 bih; 3 A.C. Middleton (12) 70 bih. Nearest the pin: A. Beetham. Longest drive: C. Nicol.
Full details of leading scorers: L. Thomas (15) 62; G. McArthur (6) 64; G. Reynolds (1), S. McDonald (6) and J. McKirdy (8), all 66; I. Simpson (9) 67; R. McKirdy (5) 68; G. Morrison (9) and A. Hunter (6) 69; T. McCready (9), A. Beetham (14), S. Wilson (18), A.C. Middleton (12), and R. Shaw (10) all 70.
* Andy Docherty (22) produced the outstanding result of last week’s competitions at the club with a remarkable total of 48 points in the Summer League tournament. He finished eight points clear of runner-up Robert McKirdy (6) on 40 points, with John Kernaghan (12) third with a total of 39.
Iain Smith won his first trophy at Kingarth when he lifted the McAlister Tankard on Saturday after a countback in the annual bogey tournament. His score of 6 up was matched by Robert McKirdy (6) and Sean Devlin (24).
William Adam (10.5) led the way in the nine-hole medal with a score of 29.5. Sean Devlin (12) was runner-up on 31, with Bobby Speirs (7) and Leonard Ferguson (10) sharing third place on 33.
* There was no Summer League competition this week, but the tournament will resume next Thursday, when the fourth round will be played. The July medal takes place tomorrow (Saturday) with the usual 8.30am ballot at the clubhouse.
* Spaces are still available for the club’s annual outing, which returns to Buchanan Castle on Monday, August 1, following the outstanding success of last year’s visit to the Drymen club. Members wishing to attend should add their names to the notice in the clubhouse.