Last two do battle for The Gazette Matchplay 2018 after sensational semi-final in Portugal sun
Chris Boyes of Fleetwood Golf Club will face Chris Nay from St Annes Old Links in Saturday's final of The Gazette Matchplay 2018 after two all-action semi-finals in Portugal, one of them among the most dramatic in the event's history.
Chris Boyes of Fleetwood Golf Club will face Chris Nay from St Annes Old Links in Saturday's final of The Gazette Matchplay 2018 after two all-action semi-finals in Portugal, one of which was among the most dramatic in the event's history. Mark Townsend recovered from four holes down at the turn and was again on the brink of defeat to two-time champion Boyes at dormie two on the glorious Gramacho course. But Mark, also from Old Links, showed all his resilience to win the 17th and 18th to force an extra hole, at which Boyes kept his bid for a hat-trick of Gazette titles alive.In the all-Old Links semi-final, St Annes YMCA head sports coach Nay defeated Steve Heyes 5 and 4.All four players are enjoying four days on the Algarve after winning through five rounds of competition around the Fylde coast. They are staying at the luxurious Pestano Dom Joao II hotel in the paradise resort of Alvor and playing three challenging courses, with all accommodation, travel and golf funded by Blackpool taxi firm Blacktax, who The Gazette is proud to have as tournament sponsors for the 10th successive year. And it's hard to recall a match throughout that decade as rich in drama as Friday's Boyes v Townsend clash of the six-handicappers, in which Mark failed to take a hole on the front nine but then won five to force the match into extra-time. Retail manager Chris took a lead he would hold until the 18th with his first birdie at the par four third, having hit his approach shot to two feet.Seventeen years Chris' senior at 47, Mark was doing well to stay in the contest against an opponent who went through the first nine holes at two under-par. After Mark's drive bounced off the pin at the short fourth, Chris extended his lead at the par -five sixth, hitting his third to three feet before Mark's par putt lipped out. Last year's runner-up, Chris looked determined to have another crack at Saturday's decider as he won the eighth and ninth. He birdied the first of these after hitting his second to three feet, then left an eight-foot birdie putt just inches short to turn for home with a commanding four-hole lead. But Mark had twice come from four down to win matches on his way to Portugal and that fighting spirit was in evidence at the short 10th, where he won his first hole with his first birdie after landing his drive within four feet.Mark then won the difficult 11th with a solid par, Chris' short putt lipping out. Both players left birdie putts on the edge of the hole at the halved 12th but Mark won his third hole out of four with a bogey six at 13.With the gap reduced to one, the next two halved holes were tense, with birdie putts not quite dropping for Chris, while Mark salvaged 15 with an excellent chip to two feet. But it looked all over at 16, the course's most difficult hole, where Mark found an unplayable lie in a ditch and Chris' par left him two up with two to play.Construction worker Mark's never-say-die determination was then in evidence again as he sank the 20-foot birdie putt he needed to take the match to the 18th. Mark was in the driving seat up the last after his opponent drove out of bounds but he still needed to hole a testing putt of around three and a half feet for his par five to take this epic encounter back to the first tee. Mark's second shot at the extra hole crashed into branches but he still managed bogey only for Chris to hold his nerve and reach the final for a fourth time with a three-foot par putt. Chris' opponent at Vale de Pinto on Saturday will be 32-year-old eight-handicapper and namesake Chris Nay, who won't forget his first trip to Portugal since childhood. Four up after six holes, he halted a mid-round revival by Steve Heyes to close out their match after 14.Chris took an early grip by winning three successive holes from the second. He drove the green at the par-four third, made birdie and was unlucky not to add another at the next when his chip struck the pin. St Annes gardener Steve desperately needed to win the fifth, the first of two holes on which the 10-handicapper received a shot, but he had to settle for half with a nett bogey. And it got worse for the 58-year-old at the sixth, when Chris stretched his lead with a second birdy after an excellent chip from just off the green. But Steve showed why he had beaten last year's champion Elliot Lavin on his way the last four by winning the seventh with a solid par three which started his best spell. He would have closed the gap further by making a five-footer on eight but he did so at the 10th, leaving a birdie putt inches short.That good work was soon undone, though, as Chris won the 11th with par and the 12th with bogey to restore his four-hole advantage. That became dormi five when bogey was good enough for Chris on 13 after Steve was trapped in sand.And it was all over at the next, where Steve couldn't make a par putt to stay in the match, but a player who had never progressed beyond the second round before will return home with nothing but happy memories. Steve said: "Chris played really well. He went out in 39 and I played the front nine in 44, which isn't bad for a course I'd never played. "The company and hospitality has been brilliant and you could not ask for more. "I never expected to get this far and it shows the other golfers around the Fylde coast what is possible."Our other beaten semi-finalist will also enjoy the rest of the weekend in Portugal.Mark said: "I couldn't quite come back from four down for a third time but I gave it a good go. I pulled out some shots when I needed to, especially that long putt at 17."The lads have been great and I'll definitely try again next year. The organisers do a fabulous job."