Wall holds strong for Match Play victory at Archerfield

Anthony Wall was thrilled to win the Paul Lawrie Match Play crown
Anthony Wall was thrilled to win the Paul Lawrie Match Play crown
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New Paul Lawrie Match Play champion Anthony Wall has hailed Archerfield Links as a European Tour venue, declaring: “Everyone’s been proper happy with it!”

The East Lothian course stepped in to stage the second Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event after an initial plan to return to Murcar Links was scrapped earlier in the year.

It had previously staged both the Scottish Ladies and Scottish Senior Opens, as well as several big charity events, including ones hosted by Ian Woosnam, Darren Clarke and Ian Botham.

But a European Tour event is a different ball game and, just like Gullane when it staged the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open for the first time last summer, Archerfield Links was given a massive thumbs up.

“It has been a phenomenal venue,” said Wall after he claimed the granite trophy as well as a top prize of £142,900 after beating Swede Alex Noren by one hole in the final.

“Everything, including the accommodation, has been first class and the course condition has been great. Everyone has been proper happy with it. It’s been fantastic.”

That view was echoed by the tournament host at the end of four days of exciting match-play action on Scotland’s Golf Coast.

“The venue couldn’t be any better for us,” declared 1999 Open champion Lawrie, who watched the entire final on a windswept Fidra Links. “I’m delighted with how the event has come across and how the course has played.

“Everything – the driving range, chipping green, putting green and spectator village – has been handy. I think it’s been a little better than it was last year. I think the whole tournament has gone up a notch or two since last year.”

Lawrie, who will now turn his attention to assisting Clarke as a vice captain for next month’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, added: “This is only our second year, so we are learning, but I think it’s been absolutely brilliant.”

Wall will certainly cherish his first visit to this particular venue after he bridged a record gap to claim a second European Tour title.

His breakthrough on the circuit came in the 2000 Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, since when he’d finished runner-up on no less than seven occasions.

After a drought of 16 years and 204 days, during which time he’d played in 430 events, the Englishman is a winner again at the age of 41. He beat American Tom Kite by 168 days in bridging the longest gap between title triumphs and had gone 154 events more than Christy O’Connor Jnr without tasting victory.

“It’s incredible,” admitted the Sunningdale man after recovering from losing the opening two holes to Scottish Open champion Noren to run out a worthy winner.

“You have to keep believing in sport. Yes, you have your down points, but you have to always believe that you’re still dedicated enough and still disciplined enough to do it.

“I did believe I could win again, but it started to fade. I’ve been struggling with my back this year and I was starting to wonder, I really was.”

As had been the case in all his matches earlier in the week, Englishman Wall was straight on the phone to his wife, Sharon, after Noren’s 15-foot putt at the last dribbled off to the left of the hole.

“She’s that rock in the background,” declared Wall. “Without her, I probably wouldn’t be playing still. I think your first win is probably always the most special, but, in golfing terms, today is the most satisfying.

“I thought doing well in The Open at St Andrews last year (tying for 12th) was great, but this supersedes that because you are a winner. Everyone dreams about being first over the line.

“I’m just pleased my whole family are able to see it. My mum, my dad, my brother and my wife have seen it. My kids, Patrick, who is 12, and Nicholas, who is 11, are old enough to understand their dad is a winner.

“When I did it the first time, they weren’t even born. That’s how long ago it was. That means as much to me as anything; the fact they know their dad can do it.”

The current contract for the event has one more year to run and Wall said of the tournament host: “The fact Paul puts on this event is great and it’s also great for the European Tour that we are now getting some of our prominent players doing the business for the rest of us.

“Paul’s an inspiration. I’ve known him as long as I’ve been playing and he would be the first to admit that he’s come from an absolute normal background to become a major winner. Everything he says you take it in because he has mixed with the best for many years.”