MORE than 200 golfers started out desperate to win the Observer Shield - and, in a dramatic finale, the 2003 champion ended up being decided on the final hole.
Both Accrington's Aaron Duxbury and Rishton's Paul Murphy were out to win the prestigious trophy for the first time.
Aaron, who plays off five, gave one shot to Paul, but nerves got the better of both men early on as both admitted it was a scrappy first nine holes at Green Haworth on Sunday.
"It wasn't the best," said the experienced Murphy who had been trying to reach the final for 14 years. However, by the ninth, Paul did have the upper hand as he was two-up. "I was miffed with my front nine," admitted 18-year-old student Aaron, who had a sizeable crowd watching him, including Trevor Foster who has won the event five times. "But I just had to forget it."
It see-sawed back and forth as Aaron struggled with his putting and, by the 15th, Paul held a one shot advantage. The 16th showed the tension creeping in for both men. On the front nine, Paul's ball was floating out of bounds before it hit a tree and bounced back in.
He was hoping for a repeat on the 16th after hitting a wayward shot but instead it was a metre from the out-of-bounds area - and under a tree. It meant Paul had to hit it sideways to get a look at the green, while Aaron seemed comfortable down the middle. However, the tension then got to Aaron as he missed a two-foot putt and stamped his foot in anger as Paul held onto his one shot advantage.
The 17th was an important drive for Paul but he found himself beyond the trees on the 16th fairway. Meanwhile Aaron was in the trees but did produce a magnificent chip to get himself onto the green. Paul then found a bunker and Aaron held his nerve to take it to the wire - leaving the 18th hole to be the decider.
And it was a horror show for Paul. While Aaron again shot down the middle, Paul turned his back as soon as he had hit the ball as it nestled in the trees. Again he needed a sideways shot to get out of trouble, while Aaron was then onto the green with his second shot. It did take two strokes for Aaron to get the ball in the hole from there - but it didn't matter as Aaron celebrated winning the shield.
"I had a great day no matter what," admitted Paul, who will be Rishton's next captain. "I just needed to keep it together but I started finding the trees too many times instead of the fairways! I sunk some good putts but Aaron played well. Really it was just that one bad shot on the 18th. I enjoyed my day though - the greens were perfect and the crowd were superb."
The beaten semi-finalists were presented with their prizes - Adam Smith from Accrington and Paul Swann from Green Haworth. But Paul had more luck as he and his father, Jim, won the Final Day Fourball. Vernon Hudson and Trevor Corday were second.
NEXT year's Observer final will be played on Sunday 5 September at Rossendale.