The four finalists in The Gazette Matchplay 2019 will be packing their golf bags for Portugal next week.
READ MORE: Handicap titles for Fairhaven and Herons Reach
Five rounds of thrilling competition led to last week’s quarter-finals at Lancaster Golf Club, where Richard Anderson, Darren Frame, Kevin Keating and Glenn Riches earned a dream golfing holiday on the Algarve.
The semi-finals and final to determine our champion will be played on the world-renowned Henry Cotton Championship Course at the luxurious Penina golf resort.
The four can look forward to three nights at the five-star venue, with accommodation, flights, meals and golf funded by our most generous sponsors Blacktax, the Blackpool taxi firm.
Keating, our youngest champion as an 18-year-old 10 years ago, won through again with a 3&1 victory over his Lytham Green Drive clubmate Phillip Smitham at the last-eight stage.
Also returning to Portugal is our 2012 semi-finalist Riches of Fleetwood GC, who defeated Rob Higgins of Herons Reach 4&3 at Lancaster.
Green Drive will have two representatives at Penina after Richard Anderson defeated Steve Norwood of Herons Reach 3&2.
The Herons Reach club provided four of our last eight but the only one to win through was Darren Frame, who defeated clubmate Daryl Prance 4&3.
Here our four finalists introduce themselves.
Lytham Green Drive, handicap 8, age 49
I beat Steve Norwood of Herons Reach 3-2 in a very good quarter-final match played in the right spirit.
I was never behind and played very well, certainly on the first 11 or 12 holes. I got to five up at one point but credit to Steve for a comeback on the back nine.
Had the quarter-finals been a couple of days earlier I would not have been able to play. I have a long-term back condition and had to pull out in the first round last year.
I have to thank Jamie Murphy of Jam Physio for sorting me out. I see him every two weeks but he fitted me at the last minute before the quarter-finals, so I’m eternally grateful.
I’ve entered for the last few years without really getting anywhere until now.
I played in four rounds to reach the quarter-finals, three of them of them at home and one at Fairhaven. I had some really good matches, two of which went down the last.
I live in St Annes and work for the housing department at Fylde Council.
I’ve been to Portugal a few times and I know how beautiful the weather will be. We’ll be lucky to see a cloud in the four days we’re there. I have played Penina before but it was on a golf trip with the club, so my memories are a bit hazy!
Herons Reach, handicap 12, age 34
I played my clubmate Daryl Prance in the quarter-finals and was really pleased to win as Daryl plays off seven and my handicap is 12.
I did play better off the tee but putting was horrendous because of the surface water. The conditions were really testing, with a strong wind and rain on and off.
I had three home games and one away to reach the quarter-finals. I wasn’t at my best and didn’t win any of them convincingly but I tended to pick up on other players’ mistakes. In the fourth round I was behind going down the last but managed to force a play-off and win.
It’s the first time I’ve entered and this is only me second year playing again after a 17-year absence. I just couldn’t find time to play until I bumped into an old friend in the pub and he got me playing again.
I’m born and based in Blackpool and work as a plasterer. I work and play golf, and that’s just about it.
I’ve never been to Penina before but have played other courses in Portugal with my dad and I remember it being really good.
Lytham Green Drive, handicap 2, age 28
I beat my Green Drive clubmate Phil Smitham on the 17th in the quarter-finals. The course was in very good condition considering the weather, but looking at the tricky pin positions I think the greenkeepers at Lancaster knew these matches were being played.
The wind made the easier holes longer and it was a grind. Phil won the first but I was two up after seven, then he holed one from off the green and made it all square at the turn.
I then went three up but he pulled one back again and it was nip and tuck all the way. We’d both done well to reach that stage and it was a good match played in good spirits.
I played in all five rounds to reach the last eight, with three of them at home. I also played at Knott End and Royal and every match was close. They all went at least to the 17th.
I think I’m still the youngest winner, having won 10 years ago as an 18-year-old. That was only the second time I had entered and the finals were in Spain that year.
I’ve entered every year since but never got beyond the last 32 until now and I’ve never been to Portugal. It’s a great competition and I always encourage people to enter.
I’m a book-keeper and business executive and I’m presently doing some work for my father’s painting and decorating firm.
Fleetwood GC, handicap 9, age 63
I won through to Portugal seven years ago, when I lost in the semi-finals to the eventual champion, and I will have turned 64 by the time we fly out this year.
It was a brilliant game against Rob Higgins, who started really well in our quarter-final. I was two down after four but levelled after nine and played really well on the back nine.
We’d never met before but he was great company. It was a good game and I holed some putts.
I’ve had a few close games this year, one of them went to a play-off hole against a fellow Fleetwood member Ian Drayton. I’ve been very fortunate in that most of my matches were at home and I’m used to the strong winds there.
I’m born and bred in Fleetwood but now live in Bispham with my partner Christine. I work in a bank and next month I’ll have been there for 45 years.
I have a timeshare at Penina and have gone out there every February for almost 20 years, so I might have home advantage. But it’s a fantastic course, which used to stage the Portuguese Open, and everyone will love it.