Eales cops golf title in one-shot victory over GillisSunday, January 15, 2017
BY PAUL A REID Observer writer
ROSE HALL, St James — Englishman Paul Eales scored a nail-biting one-shot victory to win his first Jamaica Open Golf title as the 50th staging came to a climactic end at the Half Moon course in Rose Hall on Saturday.
The 53-year-old from Liverpool shot a three over par 75 on Saturday for a total of one under 215 score, the only player under par for the three rounds and was presented with the majestic Jamaica Open trophy and a cheque for US$17,000.
Eales, who led after the two previous rounds, played a delightful chip shot out of the bunker on the 18th hole to preserve his win, just nosing out the American and pre-tournament favourite Tom Gillis who was even 72 on the final day, his third-straight even par score.
The affable Eales told the Jamaica Observer afterwards his final round was not as smooth as he hoped. "It was ugly, but I ended with a wonderful bunker shot on their 18th and I will always remember that shot to win the Jamaica Open."
American Kenny Goodykoontz, who played in the final group with Eales and Gillis on Saturday, finished tied with Canadian Dustin Risdon for third with a two over par 218 score after both shot two over 74 scores.
Goodykoontz, who started the round on level par, was unlucky and could easily have dragged himself into championship contention, but watched agonisingly as birdy putts rimmed out on three of the first four holes.
Instead, he dropped five shots on the front nine, but managed to card three birdies on the back nine to stay in the top three.
Jamaican Johnny Bloomfield, who came into the final day in second place on even par and was expected to make a run at the leader, had one of his worst days at Half Moon, shooting a nine over par 81 and slipped all the way to 12th position on the final leaderboard.
Jamaicans dominated the amateur section as Owen Samuda held on to top the section with a 17 over par 233, ahead of Oshae Haye two shots back at 19 over par 235; Sean Morris shot a two over 74 on Saturday with two birdies and an eagle, to finish third with a three-round total of 22 over 238.
Ricardo Perry and Romaine Evans were tied for fourth with 27 over 243, while Sebert Walker was sixth with 29 over par 345.
While the rains threatened but never came, the strong winds continued to wreak havoc and ultimately just one player, Eales, scored under par for three days.
Eales and Gillis were locked in a tense battle all day down to the the line and it was high drama as they both ended up in the sand on the 18th separated by a shot.
Eales, who was steady if unspectacular all week, chipped out of the right bunker to within a foot of the hole to save par, while Gillis also finished off with par from the left sand trap to end one of the most stirring battles at the Jamaica Open in years.
"I was hanging on for dear life, there was a lot of poor shots I hit out there today," Eales said as he walked off the 18th hole.
The organisers made changes to the three final groups on Saturday morning taking Bloomfield out of the final group and replacing him with Eals and Goodykoontz and it paid huge dividends with gripping golf all day.
Gillis, who won the Open in 1993, was magnanimous in his defeat and said his lack of golf could have been the reason. "I made two double bogies and lost by one so I did it to myself, it’s called competition," he said.
The American, who trailed Eales by four shots overnight, drew level with both men on two under after the eighth hole, but said his first big error came right afterwards.
"I hit a funny shot on nine and made double bogie with three puts from three feet... I got to within two shots with five holes to go which is wide open into the wind coming in, but on 15, I never hit the fairway all week, and drove into the left bunker and tried to hit it with a lot of club and it hit the lip and went over and I got big double there as well," he said.