Photo courtesy of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club
After three near misses and five days locked down in quarantine, Gene Elliott
finally has his R&A Senior Amateur Championship.
Elliott, the top-rated senior in the world by Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com, turned in rounds of 74-76-70-70 to finish at 6-over par 290, good for a one-stroke win over David Mulholland
of Northern Ireland at venerable Ganton Golf Club, located in the Vale of Pickering between York and Scarborough.
“After coming so close the last three championships, I can’t believe I’ve finally won. I’m almost speechless,” said Elliott.
Elliott, who was 8-over par after his first two rounds, played his way back into contention by carding a 1-under round of 70 on Thursday to move within a stroke of 54-hole leader Andrew Woodhead of England. The native of Des Moines, Iowa got off to a fast start on Friday with a birdie on the opening hole and an eagle 2 on the par-4 third. He moved to 4-under on his round with a birdie on 10 and seemed in control of the tournament, but Ganton Golf Club decided to make things interesting.
Elliott dropped three straight shots at the 14th, 15th and 16th holes. He looked like dropping another when he missed the 17th green to the right with a hybrid but made a great up-and-down to take a one-shot lead down the last. He made a closing par to seal the win.
"I rode the wave of emotions today,” Elliott said. “I felt comfortable until I shanked a five-iron off the 14th tee and made bogey. I bogeyed the next two and the wheels were coming off, actually they were almost bouncing along beside me down the fairway. But I made a great up-and-down at 17, hitting the best putt I made all week to save par. I knew I needed to two-putt from 20 feet at the last to win, which I did but it isn’t always the easiest thing to do under pressure.”
Elliott has been knocking on the door at the R&A Senior Amateur in recent years, finishing second, third and a joint second in his last three trips to the UK, including a playoff loss to countryman Craig Davis at North Berwick two years ago.
Elliott kept knocking on the door this year even though no one was allowed to answer.
Upon their arrival in England, he and his wife, Dalena had to spend five days in isolation due to Covid-19 protocols, only leaving their hotel room for testing.
“That’s one of the reasons I took a while to get going,” said Elliott. “I’ve been a hotel room for five days and you can only swing a golf club inside a hotel room and practice putting for so long. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked to play in a golf tournament by far, but it’s worth it to play here on this great golf course.
“This win is up there with the best I’ve ever done. I value golf over here, and what The R&A does to put on this event. It means a lot to win this great championship.
"Now I need another couple of days rest, not quarantining, to let this sink in."
Elliott shares this victory with his wife Dalena, who was on his bag all week at Ganton.
“She was already wife of the year for doing the quarantining with me to let me play here and, as well as she caddied, I owe her big time.”
It is the 23rd time the championship has been won by an American, and the 19th time in the last 24 championships. Elliott was one of only two Americans in the field this year at Ganton, along with Walker Taylor. Covid restrictions took a bite out of the international flavor of the field, as there were only two non-Great Britain & Ireland players.
The Elliott’s next stop on their three-week stay in the UK will be Sunnydale Golf Club in two weeks, where Gene will join the field at the Senior Open, which he qualified for by finishing as the low amateur in the 2019 U.S. Senior Open.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club contributed to this report
ABOUT THE British Senior Amateur
The British Senior Amateur, called the "Seniors
Amateur Championship" in the United Kingdom,
was launched by The R&A in 1969 to help select
a Great Britain & Ireland side to play in the
World Senior Amateur Team Championship.
Though the British Senior Amateur, played for the
first time at Formby, was an instant success, the
team event did not survive beyond 1969. Charlie
Green has been the most successful player in
the history of the event, winning six times in
seven years beginning in 1988. Like the U.S.
Senior Amateur, players must be over the age of
55 to play. Notable courses played over the
years include Royal County Down, Royal
Portrush, Royal Aberdeen, and Walton Heath.
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