JAMES Ablett finally got his hands on the Hampshire Open, after defeating Russell Tate in a play-off at Royal Winchester.
Lee-on-the-Solent’s Ablett had been a runner-up in the tournament five times before, but had never won it.
He put that right yesterday, though, as he broke the course record to force sudden death with East Horton’s Tate, before winning at the first extra hole.
Ablett has now claimed all of the county’s major championships during his career.
“I’ve been close a few times,” he said. “It’s been the one that has eluded me. When I came in and saw Russ had shot nine-under I thought ‘It’s going to happen again, isn’t it?’ “But it’s nice to finally get my hands on the trophy. It was the one I needed, I’ve won all the others, so this completes the set.”
After tying on a 36-hole score of 135, Ablett (70, 65) and Tate (68, 67) went back to the par-four 18th for the play-off.
Both players knocked their drives down the left-hand side, with Tate getting the worse of the lies, as his ball came to rest on a slope.
After Ablett knocked his approach shot to 12 feet, Tate found a greenside bunker with his second. He nearly holed out from the sand, though, with his ball eventually rolling about four feet past.
But par would not be good enough, as Ablett calmly stroked home his downhill, left-to-right, birdie putt to claim the title.
The left-hander admitted that, although he was delighted with the win, he felt sorry for Tate.
“It’s not nice being in a play-off, because even though you win it’s not nice to see the other person lose, especially against someone like Russell who I’ve known a long time,” he said.
In his second round, Ablett birdied three of his final four holes to force his way into the play-off, and set a new 18-hole record at Royal Winchester.
“I was just pleased with the way I played, especially in the afternoon,” he said. “That’s the best round I’ve played this year. Going out I thought I needed something like 67 or 68 to get myself in the mix.
“I thought I’d actually done enough coming off 18. I thought nine-under would be good enough.”
Stoneham’s Joe Ellis (69, 69) finished third and took home the prize for top amateur. One shot further back was Brokenhurst Manor’s amateur star Jordan Ainley – the 2012 men’s and junior county champion.
Brokenhurst pro Kevin Saunders and Hockley’s Gary Stubbington were tied fifth on 140.