HUDDERSFIELD’S Nick Marsh is eyeing a place on next season’s Challenge Tour after the biggest win of his professional career.
A sudden death victory in the Dawson & Sanderson Classic, followed by a fourth place finish in the Matchroom Sport Championship, has seen the former England amateur champion climb to second place on the HotelPlanner.com PGA EuroPro Tour with winnings of £19,434.
Marsh estimates that he now only needs around £6,000 from the remaining seven events to secure a top 5 finish in the money list, which would give him automatic playing rights on the Challenge Tour in 2018.
In the Dawson & Sanderson event at Longhirst Hall, a one over par final-round 73 saw Marsh locked at -7 with Irishman Brendan McCarroll from Narin & Portnoo Golf Club, who had birdied the last two holes to tie.
The duo headed to the 17th tee where Marsh missed a birdie putt to win, but ne made no mistake three holes later when he holed from just inside 15ft for his maiden EuroPro victory. The Fixby honorary member won £10,000 and also took home a brand new Motocaddy S3 PRO electric trolley with lithium battery, Bushnell Pro X2 Range Finder and Bolle sunglasses.
Ironically enough, he will be passing up several invites on this year’s Challenge Tour in the hope of cementing his top 5 spot.
“I played the Challenge Tour event in Denmark and finished in the top 30 which was a great experience and I could play another 5 or 6 through invitations that have already kindly been offered, but after talking it through with my dad David and my manager Duncan I feel my best opportunity this year will come from playing the rest of the events on the EuroPro Tour.
“It’s the sensible route to take. If I can get another win or another top 5 I should be ok as last year £25,000 was good enough to secure a top 5 place.”
And it is a path previously trodden by fellow Huddersfield golfers Chris Hanson, who plays out of Woodsome Hall, and Howley Hall’s Marcus Armitage – who lives in the town – as both now find themselves on the European Tour after taking exactly the same route. Marsh added: “I’ve won a couple of 1836 Tour events and one on the TP Tour this season but this is my biggest win to date and it was good to get a EuroPro win against my name.
“I started to play well at Montrose in the Scottish Masters where I finished second and then I went to Cumberwell Park and shot six under in the first round before the putter went cold on me.
“So it had definitely been coming and I felt a big win was around the corner if I could keep my form. “
But Marsh admits he did not play his best golf at Longhirst Hall until the last 9 holes of the tournament.
“It was quite windy and the greens at Longhirst are very small and some of the pins were tucked away. It was also wet so it wasn’t really a day to go out and attack. But I birdied the last to tie after a nice 3 wood and a wedge to three feet, so I was pretty positive going into the extra holes.”
And the countless rounds of matchplay golf the 2014 English amateur champion took part in as an amateur meant he felt at ease in the sudden death play-off.
“I’m comfortable with both strokeplay and matchplay formats but all the matchplay golf I played, some of which was at a national and international level, no doubt helped.”
With the transition to the paid ranks has come the realisation of just how good the standard is in professional golf.
“The standard is just so much higher and it’s increasing. On the Challenge Tour you have guys winning with scores of 17 or 18 under, and on the EuroPro even though the tournaments are only over 3 rounds it’s generally a score in double figures under par that wins.”
The exacting standards put pressure on all aspects of the game, and despite his win Marsh is seeking to improve his short game. “I track my performances though an app on my phone and I have hit a lot of greens in regulation so far this year – around 80% – so my short game has probably not been as tight as it should be, because I haven’t had to call upon it as much.
“But when you play on the Challenge Tour you see at first hand just how good these guys are around the greens so it will remain a focus. But I feel good about my long game which continues to improve thanks to the work I do with Andrew Nicholson at Wynyard Hall.”
Marsh’s father is an Advanced Fellow PGA professional working in Sudan and on his limited trips back to the UK he is pressed into action to caddie for his son.
“He carried my bag at Cumberwell when he was back for a short time and he’s going to be with me for a couple of the events towards the end so I’m looking forward to having him on the bag again,” added Marsh, 22.
“He’s very busy out at the club in the Sudan and I have wintered over there as it’s great to have the sun on my back when I’m working on my game, but my Mum Joanne is a great supporter and drove up to Newcastle to watch me play the final round at Longhirst.”
And he will need all the support he can muster as he approaches what may be the most important few weeks of his young life as a professional golfer.