Sheffield Unionof Golf Clubs
A familiar name returned to the prestigious Sheffield Amateur Trophy, with Sean Needham claiming the title for the first time since 2002.
A glorious sunlit Autumn day at Lindrick proved to be one when experience prospered. The combined age of the two combatants in the final, Needham and fellow Lindrick member Ian Clarke, weighed in at a hefty 112. But the two produced some high-quality golf in both morning and afternoon rounds with Needham finally taking a deserved victory with a rock-solid par at the 17th.
It was his 34th hole of the day, his semi-final encounter with young Brandon Perry of Phoenix having concluded on the same green. Perry deserves great credit for an excellent run, but the greater experience of his opponent proved pivotal. Needham played solid Matchplay golf, augmented by holing out for an eagle two at the eighth, and was in no mood to let the Phoenix youngster back in.
The other semi-final saw Clarke similarly resolute in holding off Abbeydale’s Tim Brind. Consistently a destroyer in Sheffield’s successful Inter-District side, Brind is a formidable matchplayer himself, but Clarke showed the resolve which has seen him serve Yorkshire’s Seniors so impressively this year. The result was a 3&2 win which propelled him into the final against his good friend, whom he had partnered in a fourball event only the previous day.
Indeed, the two have played together regularly for many years, both at Sickleholme where they were both members prior to joining Lindrick. A close game, therefore, seemed inevitable. Needham won the second and third holes with pars, and although he wasn’t able to accelerate away to a comfortable margin, he held Clarke at bay throughout the afternoon. Two excellent shots to the heart of the green at the difficult par-five 16th saw Clarke reduce the margin to just one.
His drive at the 17th, however, was a fraction right, and finished in a nasty spot in the rough. With Needham maintaining his enviable rhythm and sweeping a smooth iron shot on to the green (above), Clarke was unable to extricate as he would have liked, finding himself left of the green. Despite an impressive pitch, he narrowly missed from eight feet, and took five. A nerveless two-putt denied the gallery the drama of a last hole finish, and secured Needham the Sheffield Amateur Championship, 15 years after his last triumph.
Although not one for shows of emotion, the left-hander was clearly delighted. “After I got ahead I managed not to make it easy for Ian. It was mostly pars, and a couple of birdies from short range at the sixth and tenth,” he explained. “It might have been a surprise to have us in the final, but the hotshots had failed to get through at Sitwell, and we managed to take our chances. I’m not sure how many more of those we will have!”
Sympathy must be extended for Clarke, runner-up for the fifth time without scratching his name on the trophy – yet.
A delighted Sean Needham (Lindrick, right) receiving the Sheffield Amateur Championship Trophy from SUGC President John Reynard