Nick Marsh draws positives from Open near-miss as he heads to Sweden

English amateur champion Nick Marsh, of Huddersfield.
English amateur champion Nick Marsh, of Huddersfield.

SOME incorrect information imparted to him on the 18th tee by two well-intentioned scorers played its part in Huddersfield’s Nick Marsh agonisingly missing out for the second consecutive year at Hillside on claiming an Open spot.

Last year, the English amateur champion was in a four-man play-off in Southport from which three players progressed to the Open – and was the odd man out as the successful trio, including Woodsome Hall’s Chris Hanson, marched on to Royal Liverpool.

This week at Hillside he prepared to play the final hole of 36 having been told by the scorers that a par would get him into a play-off when, in fact, a birdie was required to give him a chance of heading to St Andrews.

Uncertain as to whether he should play with caution with his approach shot, he left himself with a 40ft birdie putt.

“I thought I had to two-putt. If I’d known I needed a birdie I would have gone for it but I ended up three-putting it,” said Marsh, who ultimately placed a highly commendable but unrewarded fourth.

“I tried to lag it up there and shot myself in the foot a little bit by leaving it four and a half feet short and I missed that one.”

Marsh heads to Sweden on Saturday to represent England in the European Team Championships and as well as his clothes and clubs will take with him the confidence gained from yet again holding his own in a strong field.

Among those who finished behind him at Hillside were fellow Yorkshiremen and European Tour professionals John Parry, of Harrogate, and Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.

“I did come up against some really good pros and although you can’t say I beat them it does show that I do have the game to compete with them when I’m really on my game, which is nice to know,” he said. “I’m going to take a lot of positives and look forward to representing England in Sweden.”

Marsh will hope to play both stroke play and match play golf at the Halmstad GC where teams of six will initially contest two stroke play qualifying rounds.

The best five scores will count each round for each team and the leading eight teams will progress to the championship match play flight to contest the medals, with two foursomes and five singles being played in each match-up.

Despite his three-putt at the last at Hillside, which in the final analysis meant he missed a play-off by two shots rather than one, the 20-year-old believes this area of his game is improving.

“I think I’ve started to putt a bit better. Putting has been my problem and as a result I’ve just not been holing my fair share (of makeable putts),” he said.

“The past few months my long game has been really, really solid. It’s about putting them both together. I seem to leave a couple of shots out there every round through missing putts.

“ I think it is a question of confidence and matching line and pace a bit better. In order to hole a lot of putts you have to match the line and pace well and I’m just not doing that at the moment. But overall there were loads of positives to take from it [Open Final Qualifying].”

Having been treated so harshly at the Southport links in consecutive visits you might think Marsh would be more likely to refer to Hillside as Hellside. Not a bit of it.

“The first time I played Hillside was in the practice round for qualifying last year and I fell in love with it straight away,” he said.

“It is such a lovely links lay-out; deep bunkers, good fast greens, and really demanding off the tee. You can’t just smash it anywhere and expect to find your golf ball.

“They say it’s got the best back nine of any course in Lancashire and I can see why they say that. It’s a beautiful area for golf courses, Lancashire are blessed with some great courses.”

Marsh will defend his English Amateur championship at Alwoodley and Pannal at the end of this month, July 27-August 1.