IN-FORM Sam Rook won the Yorkshire Amateur Championship at Ganton, closing with a superb 68 in the most testing of conditions.
Rook’s last round was a master class in the art of holing out, and he needed all his powers of recovery to fend of Sam Bairstow from Hallowes as the two fought out what effectively became a matchplay situation as they were so far ahead of the field.
Bairstow’s final round of 70 was one of just seven scores under par recorded during the 72 holes of the championship and he pushed Rook all the way, closing to within one shot with just three holes to play.
Two solid pars saw Rook triumph by three shots after Bairstow found greenside bunkers on both closing holes, but it was a titanic contest played out on still baked fairways and with gusting winds as the famous old links once again bared its teeth. Rook finished on one over for the tournament after rounds of 70, 72, 75 and 68 and the measure of difficulty was reflected in the competition scratch score, which was 75 in rounds one three and four, and 76 in round three.
A distant six shots back from Bairstow in third was Fulford’s Charlie Thornton, whose third-round 67 equalled the best score of the week, an honour he shared with Middlesbrough’s James Swash.
David Hague played his way out of contention with a third round 79, but it has been a long year for the Malton & Norton man who has represented his country admirably all over the globe. Hague dug in for a closing 73 to finish fourth on 12 over, three clear of David Houlding (Moortown). Meltham’s Tom Hunt, James Cass (Fulford), the evergreen former champion Adam Frontal (Cookridge), Wakefield’s Scott MacGregor plus Aaron Schnacke (Huddersfield) and Swash made up the top 10.
Lindrick’s Rook is yet another product of the Pete Cowen Academy where he is coached by Nick Huby, and he also makes regular trips to Formby Hall to the Harold Swash Putting School of Excellence to see Mike Kanski.
Now 20, he turned to golf aged 13 and a half when he was also a promising footballer, representing Sheffield Boys, and played both junior and senior golf at Tankersley Park before joining Lindrick. He made it through to the last 16 in the English Amateur and was one of the form men after shooting a course record 62 in the Westwood Trophy the week before Ganton.
His year has been dogged by injuries, but now fully fit he is showing a new-found maturity in his game. A car crash in January resulted in a neck injury that led to a lay-off, and in April he dislocated a knee, which further hampered his progress before he started to work with Newark Golf Club member, and Danny Willett’s physiotherapist, Paul Farqharson to regain full fitness.
But there was nothing disjointed about the way he battled on the back nine for a number of par saves, combining a deft touch around the greens with some impressive lag putting from long distances. His up and down at 16 proved to be a game changer. After his fairway splitting drive his mid iron approach came out hot from a bare lie and he found himself long and right and faced with a blind pitch over high gorse from a very sandy base.
His Seve Ballesteros-like lob finished just eight feet from the pin and he coolly rolled the putt right in to the middle of the hole to move two clear of the lefty Bairstow. Cool Rook then pulled out a driver on the last and again split the fairway before finding the front of the green from 160 yards where, once again, his approach putting came to the fore when he left it stone dead from over 40ft away.
His father Rob, who was there to see his son triumph, said: “He’s playing full-time amateur golf and has worked really hard, putting in 11 or 12 hours a day on his game. But I don’t know where we are going to put the trophy – it’s huge.”
Rook and Bairstow took the Inter-District Plate for Sheffield with a combined total of 276 from their first two rounds, six shots clear of Hague and Thornton who returned the two best scores from players competing from the York Union. Rook also won the Alvin Trophy awarded for the best score over the first two rounds.