KEITH NICHOLSON has added another title to the most glittering CV in the history of grass-roots Lothians golf.
He’s been crowned as the Champion of Champions for a fifth time after emerging as a deserved winner following this year’s final stages at Luffness New.
It takes Nicholson’s overall tally in Lothians Golf Association ‘majors’ to nine, having also won its match-play championship four times.
“Throw in two or three Stuart Cups, which most people rate highly, and it’s certainly a record I can be proud of,” admitted the 40-year-old.
Nicholson, who first won the Champions’ title in 1993, regained it seven years later then won it back-to-back in 2005-06, did it the hard way this time. Representing both Haddington and Gullane, he won all of his matches on the road, including later-round trips to Greenburn and Royal Burgess.
“I managed to beat Gary Corrigan at Greenburn, where I was five-under for 15 holes, and that definitely gave me a bit confidence,” he added. “I then played [2011 winner] Brian Tait in the quarter-finals at Royal Burgess and had hardly hit a ball between the two matches.
“It took both of us a few holes to get going, but, fortunately for me, Brian then went off the boil on the back nine.”
Joining Nicholson in the semi-final line-up at Luffness New were Stephen Simants (Dunbar Castle), Kenny Mail (West Linton) and Scott McClory (Bathgate).
In their clash, Simants conjured up an eagle-3 at the 14th to get his nose in front against Nicholson, who then missed 15-foot hole-winning chances at both the 15th and 17th.
But, after finding thick rough on the left at the last, Simants eventually conceded that before losing to his opponent’s solid par-4 at the second extra hole. Mail, who beat McClory 2 and 1 in the other semi-final, got off to a flying start in the title showdown by winning both the second and fourth with birdies.
“I could have been more than one down by the turn as Kenny was striking it really well,” said Nicholson, who has been the club manager at Baberton for close to three years. “When Kenny then three-putted the tenth from long distance, it meant that it had suddenly changed from him being reasonably dominant to the match being all square.”
Nicholson then edged in front for the first time when his opponent went for a big one off the 14th tee and found an unplayable lie in the thick stuff.
And, after missing from around five feet at the 16th, Mail’s title hopes disappeared when he found trouble again with his drive at the last.
“Given that I don’t play nearly as much golf as I used to, it’s great to have won this event again,” admitted Nicholson.
“I know that some people might think it’s a benefit that the final stages are held at courses in East Lothian, but Luffness New is a course I actually haven’t played a lot over the years.
“I was fortunate that Richard McNeill, a Baberton member, also plays down there and I was able to go down with him to have a look at the place.”
The big question now is will Nicholson be able to take those LGA title triumphs into double-figures? Well, he’s qualified again for next year’s Champion of Champions and won the flagship event as recently as 2009, so it’s a distinct possibility.
“It’s becoming more difficult for me to win these events, but I’ll certainly keep trying,” admitted the East Lothian man.
In the Handicap Match Play final, Jonathan Dorrian (Royal Burgess) beat Ken Donald (Watsonians) by 5 and 4.