Three first time finalists stand between Chris Boyes and a hat-trick of Gazette Matchplay titles in Portugal at the end of the month.
2010 and 2012 winner Boyes is once more among the four Fylde coast qualifiers for our annual golfing spectacular on the Algarve, again generously sponsored by Blackpool taxi company Blacktax and the Airport Transfer Group.
And this year our semi-finals and final return to the golfers’ paradise of Vilamoura, the luxurious marina resort where Chris, now 29, won his two Gazette titles.
Standing in his way are Anthony Berry of Herons Reach, Glen Edvidge of North Shore and Elliot Lavin of Lytham Green Drive, who all won through this week’s quarter-finals, staged for the first time at the majestic Lancaster Golf Club.
All four will fly from Manchester to Faro on September 28, then journey on to Vilamoura for three nights with full board at the palatial Vila Gale Marina Hotel.
Their flights, accommodation and meals, together with all matches at the Oceanico Laguna Course (semi-final venue) and world-renowned Oceanico Old Course (final) will be fully funded by Blacktax and the Airport Transfer Group.
Chris, who was last presented with our champion’s trophy by Ian Wharmby of Blacktax five years ago, couldn’t have wished for an easier passage to the final.
The six-handicapper had a walkover win at Lancaster on Monday because scheduled opponent Michael Heritage from Fairhaven was on holiday, though his path to the last eight certainly tested his mettle.
Now based at Fleetwood, 29-year-old Chris beat clubmate Andy Nurse, another former champion, in a tie that went to a second play-off hole.
Having come through more close contests against low handicappers in the other rounds, Chris feels he is battle-hardened for Portugal despite his quarter-final bye.
He told The Gazette: “I’ve not had an easy path. I work in retail and so have to work Saturday, which has limited the number of competitions I’ve been able to enter this year but I feel I’m in good form.
“Moving from Knott End has helped my game because Fleetwood is a longer course and I feel it’s more of a test for me.
“I haven’t played against the other finalists before, though Anthony Berry and I did used to play cricket together, but from what I’ve seen of them the matches in Portugal could be quite tight.”
Gazette Matchplay finalist Glen Elvidge hopes good news comes in threes.
Having won his first competition at his club North Shore this year and had his first hole in one, six-handicapper Glen hopes to lift our prestigious trophy in Vilamoura after winning through to the final four.
Having twice been eliminated the round before the quarter-finals, Glen defeated Chris Nay of South Annes Old Links three and two in their last-eight match in Lancaster.
Blackpool-based Glen, a former Staining member, had only recently played Chris in an open competition and the pair resumed their friendly rivalry.
Glen said: “I played well and it was a good match. I’d only played Lancaster once before and it’s a pretty tough course which plays long.
“I compete each week at North Shore and I’ve been in good form, so let’s hope that continues for Portugal.”
Our other two finalists play off 15 but aim to give the six-handicappers a run for their money.
Elliot Lavin of Lytham Green Drive has progressed further in each of the three years he has entered our tournament.
The 28-year-old won through to the final with a four and three victory over Marcus Naylor of Fairhaven.
Having twice surrendered the lead in the early stages, Elliot won three successive holes from the seventh to reach the turn three up.
The South Shore-based accountant never looked back from that point and is looking forward to his first-ever golfing holiday.
“I’ve played most of the Saturday competitions at Green Drive this season and did nothing of note, so it looks like matchplay brings the best out of me,” he said.
“I had to come back from three holes down in one of the rounds at Poulton and my first-ever match at Lancaster was really great.”
The most convincing quarter-final winner was Anthony Berry of Herons Reach, who defeated Peter Collis from North Shore six and four.
Anthony’s best present came the day after his 33rd birthday as he won the first three holes and was five up after the front nine.
But as Blackpool-based Anthony explains his route to the last eight had been far less straightforward. “My matches in the last two rounds both went to the 19th. One of them was against a guy from Staining and we finished in the dark at 9.45pm.
“I’ve never got so far before and I’ve never been to Portugal. I’ve had no success in the other tournaments this year, so let’s hope this is the one.”