MARK Beard revealed the secret of his Observer Golf Shield success – half a lager!

The 49-year-old Accrington Golf Club member was two-down at the turn against Rossendale's Stuart Biggs and admitted he wasn't playing his best golf.

But some beer at the Great Harwood club house at the half-way point led to a change of performance – and victory for Beard on the 17th hole in the 56th year of the prestigious competition.

"My son Mark dashed in and got me half-a-lager at the ninth hole and I was trying to drink it quickly while Stuart was getting ready to tee off," said the printer. "I had already had a pint and half before I started the game but perhaps that was too much and the half just did enough."

Beard was a delighted winner admitting: "I shouldn't be here. You look at all the names who have won the competition and I can't believe mine will be on the shield."

The Accrington golfer's handicap is 16 and he had ten shots on Biggs, who plays off six.

This year the competition had new rules to fall in line with other golf competitions where, instead of three-quarters of the handicap which it has been in the past, it was the full handicap.

"If it had been three-quarters Stuart would have won it," continued Beard, who only took up golf three years ago to try and get rid of a "beer belly". "But these are the rules and that was lucky for me. I have been consistent throughout the competition. I should be here!"

Biggs, in his first ever Observer golf final, admitted: "I am gutted. It's really hard to lose but I played well and I can't be too disappointed. Mark played a great game and I just have to come back next year."

Biggs, watched by a big support from Rossendale as the club looked for its first ever victory in the event, got off to a superb start, winning the first three holes.

He turned at two up and went back to three up with six to play.

Then Beard got his shots in and won the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th hole and needed a birdie on the 17th for victory.

"That was my shot of the day as I needed to win the hole and I drove it 150 yards with a seven iron and it landed just three foot from the pin on the 17th. I knew then I could do it."

It hadn't been so clear-cut as he admitted he didn't follow instructions on the first nine.

"My caddy Steve Cosby kept telling me which clubs to use and I kept ignoring his advice and over-ruling him on the front nine and it went wrong.

"So, on the back nine, I decided to go with him and it worked perfectly.

"It was a really good game,. Stuart played really well but I was poor on the first nine. I had my lager at the turn, remained confident and I always knew I could come back with having the 10 shots. It's huge for me.

"I have got the shield and Nikki Foster is in the ladies' final and I am having my photo taken with her and the shield. It is a huge honour for me as she is an England player and I only started playing golf three years ago. I am just a hacker and slasher so I am having to pinch myself that I have won it."

About 70 people followed the final around with Beard having his own team.

"Instead of team GB I had team MB as my friend Mark Pemberton, who runs Home Tone fitness got t-shirts made up for me so I had a lot of support," said Beard who has only won two other trophies – the Mayoral Trophy and a Texas Scramble competition with his wife, Linda.

"The trophy has been at Accrington for the last few years and I wanted to bring it back to the club – I am relieved to have done it."


Winner: Mark Beard (2&1)

Losing finalist: Stuart Biggs

Losing semi-finalists: Steve Bramwell, Ian Grimes.