By ALISTAIR TAIT
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Lytham Trophies normally don’t produce surprise winners. This one did.
England’s James Robinson stunned the Royal Lytham galleries with a closing round of even-par 70 for a 7-over 287 total to take the title by a stroke over Ben Westgate of Wales.
Former Augusta State player Wallace Booth tied for third along with second-round leader Dale Whitnell, England’s Jack Senior and first-round pace setter Shane Lowry of Ireland.
The last five winners of this tournament – Matt Haines, Lloyd Saltman, Jamie Moul, Gary Lockerbie and James Heath – have all been players with high expectations attached to their names. Robinson’s name looks conspicuous in such company.
Robinson’s only claim to fame before this victory was making it to the semifinals of the English Amateur Championship two years ago where he lost to Danny Willett. Willett went on to make the Great Britain & Ireland Walker cup team that year while Robinson returned home to work on his game.
The 20-year-old is not even a member of the English Golf Union’s elite squad. He is currently a member of the A-squad, and hasn’t represented his country at full international level. Neither is he a member of the GB&I Walker Cup squad.
Robinson will be considered for both squads now.
“I’m over the moon,” Robinson said. “This is the biggest win of my career. My goal has always been to play in the Walker Cup so to win this tournament in a Walker Cup year is huge. It would be an honor to play in the Walker Cup.”
Robinson began the final two rounds four shots off Whitnell’s lead. However, while scores ballooned in the extremely windy conditions, Robinson got himself into contention with a third-round 73.
As a member of Southport & Ainsdale, a links layout, Robinson is used to seaside golf.
“I’m used to these conditions. My goal today was just to play solid and not make too many mistakes. I managed to do that pretty well.”
The plus four handicapper was one of only four players to shoot level-par 70 in the final round. In fact, those were the only level-par scores of the final two rounds.
Robinson birdied the 13th and 16th holes to offset bogeys at 15 and 17. He then made a clutch up and down at 18. He missed the green left, but holed a seven-foot par putt that proved to be the winning stroke.
Whitnell was even with Robinson at 7-over-par with three holes to play, but bogeyed two of the last three holes. He found a greenside bunker at 16 and failed to get up and down, and then drove into a fairway bunker at 18.
Welshman Westgate did his best to honor the memory of countryman Ben Enoch, who died in a car accident on the eve of the tournament. No Welsh player has ever won the Lytham Trophy. This would have been a fitting year to eradicate that record.
Robinson had other ideas. Now he has even bigger plans, such as a trip to Merion as one of the 10 GB&I players to take on Buddy Marucci’s U.S. Walker Cup side.
He’ll certainly make the trip if he has more performances like the display he showed at Lytham this week.
The Royal Lytham and St. Annes flag flew at half-staff Friday in the 44th edition of the Lytham Trophy. Ben Enoch, 18, was on his way to the event when he died in a car accident. As Alistair Tait reported, there haven’t been many dry eyes since. To read more, click here>