LEEDS CUP 2020 WINNER – HAYDN McCULLEN

PGA trainee Haydn McCullen not only joined a list of victors that includes four Open champions and a dozen Ryder Cup players in winning the Leeds Cup but also upstaged them.
Unlike his illustrious predecessors, however, McCullen was making his debut in a PGA tournament of any description.
Not that that was evident from the manner in which the year-one PGA Assistant attached to Ashton on Mersey Golf Club negotiated the second and final round at Leeds Golf Club.
So much so that previous champions such as Harry Vardon, one of The PGA founders and first winner of the trophy in 1902, and Abe Mitchell, the coach of Ryder Cup inspiration Sam Ryder, would surely have been highly impressed.
Not least by the way the 25-year-old executed his game plan to perfection, especially in the second round.
“The aim was to find the fairway off the tee and keep out of trouble,” he explained. “I only used the driver six times in the two rounds and, aside from the par-threes, otherwise teed off with a three-iron.
“I may have been 20 to 30 yards behind most of the others off the tee but I felt it was worth sacrificing distance in the long run.”
The tactic clearly paid off as McCullen had begun round two on level-par three shots adrift of the leader, Renishaw Park Golf Club’s Michael Ramsden, winner of the famous old trophy in 2017.
Others in the mix to claim the £2,000 first prize were Staysure Tour winner David Shacklady, previous Leeds Cup victors Jason Shufflebotham and Garry Houston as well as defending champion Gareth Davies.
Carden Park’s Houston and Davies of Abbeydale Golf Club were members of the six-strong posse that turned out to be McCullen’s main challengers but none of the sextet could match the debutant’s high-octane golf that belied his lack of tournament experience.
McCullen served notice of things to come with a birdie at the par-four first. Another birdie followed at the par-three ninth to take him to two-under at the turn.
Then he added another three at 11, 15 and 16 for a five-under-par bogey-free round of 64.
All of which left the chasing pack two shots adrift and pondering what might have been.
Not least Davies who, finishing with an eagle at 14 and then three successive birdies, was left to rue an opening two-over-par round of 71 that sabotaged his chances of making a successful defence.
Despite McCullen’s rookie status his success should come as no surprise given the way he excelled at the game in his teens. His introduction to golf, however, was somewhat unconventional.
“I was fascinated by the game when I saw it on TV when I was really small,” he recalled.
“As a result my parents found it was a good way to keep me quiet! Then when I started playing I was off scratch at 14 and plus-four when I turned pro.”
Reflecting on his victory, he added: “There were some formidable players out there – Shackers (David Shacklady), Garry Houston and Gareth Davies – so I’m delighted to finish ahead of them and to add my name to such a distinguished list.
“As for the future – I’ve had a few injury problems which have held me back so hopefully I can build on this.”

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