“The finest greens I have ever putted on” – Tony Johnstone
Lee Westwood’s putting coach, Tony Johnstone, led a chorus of praise for the course at Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Club after the North Wales club played host to the Speedy Services Wales Seniors Open for the third time in six years.
Won by England’s Barry Lane at seven under par, the event was watched by large, enthusiastic crowds over the August Bank holiday weekend, as well as by those watching the highlights on Sky Sports. With a high-quality field – including three former Ryder Cup captains in Ian Woosnam, Sam Torrance and Mark James – the 6,903-yard par 72 course proved a fitting test for the cream of Europe’s senior players. Three of the top four from this season’s Senior Order of Merit – Lane, Australia’s Peter Fowler, and Sweden’s Anders Forsbrand – finished in the top four at Conwy, with England’s Philip Golding taking second place ahead of Forsbrand and Fowler.
Mark Mouland was the leading Welsh finisher, tied in fifth position at three under par. Woosnam came second at Conwy in 2008 but his quest for a first Wales Seniors title ended in disappointment after he fell away in the third and final round despite encouragement from a healthy band of supporters.
The challenge, presentation and condition of the course all came in for lavish praise from players, officials and spectators, while European Tour representatives commended club staff for their work after a summer of disappointing weather. In his victory speech, Lane complimented the club on the excellent course presentation.
Second-placed Golding, who turned 50 earlier this year and was only playing in his fourth senior event, had led after the first round with a course record-equalling 64, including a European Senior Tour record of eight consecutive birdies from the ninth hole. “It is a course where you have to think off the tee,” he said. “You can’t hit a driver everywhere. It’s a great course. Every hole makes you think and the greens were in fantastic condition today.”
Running at the Stimpmeter speed requested by the Tour of between 10.5 and 11.0 each day, the putting surfaces provided the perfect test for the skills of the players. Echoing the thoughts of many of his fellow players, Forsbrand said: “It’s a great golf course. You have to focus on every single shot.”
However, even these comments were surpassed by those of Sky Sports golf pundit and renowned putting and short-game expert Johnstone, who said: “Those were the finest greens I’ve ever putted on.” Johnstone was recently appointed putting and short-game coach to former world number one Westwood and is acknowledged as one of the finest putters of his generation, having won six times on the main European Tour. He finished in seventh position at Conwy.
Conwy is the North Wales coast’s premier Championship links course, not only hosting the Wales Seniors Open three times in the last six years, but also the Wales Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour in 2010, the European Amateur Men’s Team Championships in 2009, and Final Qualifying for the Open Championship in 2006, when it became the first (and to date only) course in Wales to host that event.