Hemstock holds his nerve to win EuroPro Masters event at Mannings Heath

Billy Hemstock receives trophy from Nokia CEO Cormac Whelan flanked by club captain Roger Bridge and Mannings Heath Operations Director Adam Streeter
Billy Hemstock receives trophy from Nokia CEO Cormac Whelan flanked by club captain Roger Bridge and Mannings Heath Operations Director Adam Streeter

Mannings Heath’s 18th green saw joy and disappointment on Saturday as Teignmouth’s Billy Hemstock beat Dave Coupland from Woodhall Spa on the first hole of a sudden death play-off to win the HotelPlanner.com EuroPro Nokia Masters.

Coupland had spent most of the day with his feet up having been one of the few players to complete their second round on Friday. He had added a five-under-par 67 to his opening 66 before torrential mid-day rain flooded the greens, wiping out play for the day and reducing the three round event to 36 holes.

Nearly a third of the 154-strong field had not even teed off before play was suspended and Hemstock had only completed seven holes. He was seven shots behind the leader when he resumed his round but an astonishing clutch of seven birdies, culminating with a superb breaking putt on the last, saw him card a brilliant 65 to finish 11 under par and guarantee a play-off.

Former Heath junior Marco Penge had looked as if he might also get to -11 after some monster drives and precision putting had left him nine under the card with two holes to play, but a shanked chip from the edge of the 17th denied him a banker birdie and even a brave three on the last left him one short.

With first round leader Richard Mansell failing to build on his opening 65 and the other challengers falling away, only one other contender, Stiggy Hodgson from The Wisley, threatened to make it a triple tie.

But a slightly overcooked pitch on the 18th left him with an impossible recovery from the top of the bank and he too joined Penge and Will Enefer, another Friday finisher, in equal third place on 134.

On the 18th, Coupland’s tee shot was straight down the middle and left him 140 yards to the pin while Hemstock’s ball was longer but left of the fairway with his view of the target blocked by trees.

Both players found the green safely, but Coupland, faced with his first competitive putt of the day, struck his difficult right-to-left 20-footer too strongly while Hemstock lagged his 15-footer to two-and-a-half feet.

With six feet to save par Coupland struck his putt firmly but saw it wobble agonisingly out of the jaws and a joyful Hemstock held his nerve to claim his first win of the season and £10,000.

Coupland had already claimed two EuroPro titles this year and victory would have left him just one win away from the tour’s £250,000 bonus.

His £6000 runner-up prize consolidated his lead in the tour’s order of merit race though and makes him a strong favourite to earn a place on next year’s Challenge Tour.

The club expects to host the event again next year and will be hoping for third time lucky with the weather.