FORGET Wimbledon. Forget the World Cup.
This was sport at its very best and on our doorstep – and it was all free.
If you took in any of the play at last week’s Brabazon Trophy at Seaton Carew then you got your money’s worth.
You got to witness some incredible golf from some incredible young men.
And Wimbledon and the World Cup will have to go some to match the skill and drama of the last day and, especially, the cliffhanging last holes.
Players came from around the UK and Ireland and the world to contest England amateur golf’s strokeplay championship and it was fitting that three English players were the men who, ultimately, would battle it out for the famous silverware. And it was won by some sheer brilliance from Ben Stow.
The 22-year-old, from Dorset, who plays his golf in the United States, demonstrated the sort of talent AND temperament any winner needs.
He had to.
The 2013 European champion Ashley Chesters had performed superbly to move from a starting point of six under par to 14 under with a sensational string of birdies, including a 30-odd footer at the par three 15th to go to 13 under par.
And England team-mate, Ryan Evans, moved to 13 under as the four-day competition came to a climax, sinking a brilliant 20-foot putt for birdie at the par four 16th.
But when Stow lost a ball at the 16th and did well to escape with just a bogey to slip to 12 under par, it looked like being between Chesters and Evans.
Stow had other ideas. Afterwards, he described his play on those last two testing holes as “absolutely immaculate”. This reporter could not better that description.
His tee shots at 17 and 18 were excellent and his approach irons into each green were perfection. And the putts? Nerveless.
He holed both for birdies, the ‘winner’ coolly dropping from eight feet in front of a big crowd on the last to match the course record off for a total of 278.
It overtook Chesters, who after three birdies in a front nine of 32, another at 11, and four-in-a-row from the 13th, saw his run end with a bogey at the 17th
After playing a great bunker shot to rescue par at the 17th, Evans came down the 18th knowing that he needed a birdie just to force a play-off.
He had a damned good go from 20 feet but it fell agonisingly shy of the cup.
It meant THE cup went to Stow and deservedly so.
When that ball was lost on 16, the University of Kentucky student looked third favourite but he responded in the style of a champion.
“I hit one bad shot on 16,” he explained.
“That hole was a bit of damage limitation, but then I played absolute immaculate golf on the last two holes.
“I couldn’t have hit six better shots to be honest – I hit them exactly where I wanted to.”
Remember his name because we may well be seeing him on a higher plain in the future.
Anyone who can shake off the adversity of the 16th and come back the way he did has something special.
He can play and he thrives on being on the big stage.
“I am a performer, I always have been, ever since being a young boy,” said the lad with Geordie roots, his dad is from Whickham in Gateshead.
“I love being in the limelight – if you can’t enjoy that coming down the last stretch then you are in the wrong sport.
“I absolutely love that, the feeling of my heart pounding through my chest. That’s what it’s all about.
“At the 17th I never thought ‘this is getting away from me’ I was just thinking ‘what do I need to do right now?’ and keeping my mind exactly where it needed to be.
“I played good irons on the 17th and 18th and then holed the putts when it mattered.”
Where there’s a winner, there are losers.
But for Chesters, there was a share of the course record and a share of second place with Evans.
It was hard luck on Evans, who took defeat with grace.
“If I’d have shot six under anywhere else in a final round I would fancy my chances to win it,” Evans told SportMail.
“Hats off to Ben for finishing three-three after bogeying 16.
“I missed my putt at the last, it wasn’t an easy putt.
“I am disappointed but fairly happy too – if you’d have offered me second at the beginning of the week I’d have taken it.”
There was one other winner, Seaton Carew GC who hosted a fabulous championship on a magnificent course.
The players too were a credit to golf, playing with great sportsmanship and camaraderie. Almost all the top players carried their own clubs, repaired the divots and raked the bunkers.
They embraced the crowds, metaphorically of course. Where else would you get a word with the joint leader while strolling up the fairway?
One of my abiding memories would be the pain of Ireland’s Cormack Sharvin, who took four to get out of severe rough at the 13th on the way to a quadruple bogey nine.
A loud expletive was followed by a quip of “I’ll get there in the end” and then brilliant back-to-back birdies at the next two holes.
It was all great sport and it was on our doorstep. It was a pleasure to watch.
1. Ben Stow Rushmore Golf Club 69 68 75 66 278 -14
2. Ashley Chesters Hawkstone Park Golf Club 70 71 72 66 279 -13
2. Ryan Evans Wellingborough Golf Club 71 66 75 67 279 -13
4. Craig Ross Kirkhill Golf Club 73 70 70 70 283 -9
5. Gary Hurley West Waterford Golf Club 71 72 75 66 284 -8
5. Daniel Young Craigie Hill Golf Club 70 70 73 71 284 -8
5. Gavin Moynihan The Island Golf Club 71 70 72 71 284 -8