Rhys Thompson hits back to land Durham County Match Play Championship – a year after final play-off heartache

Rhys Thompson hoists the Durham County Match Play trophy at Wearside Golf Club

Rhys Thompson hoists the Durham County Match Play trophy at Wearside Golf Club

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Boldon teenager Rhys Thompson is celebrating landing the prestigious Durham County Match Play Championship.

The Durham County player, 19, held his nerve to pip Whickham’s Darren McCaig by one hole in a tense final at Wearside, making up for a heartbreaking defeat to Seaham’s David Patterson in a play-off in last year’s final.

Thompson got out of the traps to move two up after eight holes, but McCaig heaped on the pressure when he birdied eight, nine and 10 to come from one behind to go one up.

However, the Boldon youngster birdied the 17th to level the scores, and sealed the trophy on the final hole after McCaig found himself in trouble in the bunker.

Thompson said: “I didn’t think about last year’s defeat in the final, I was just focused about winning this time round.

“I was definitely nervous on the final hole, but I knew what I had to do.

“Since last year, my game has definitely come on.

“I’m more of an experienced player, and all round I’m a better player.”

Earlier, Thompson had outgunned Tyneside’s James Wilson 5&3 in an ultimately comfortable semi-final triumph, while McCaig ended the hopes of Wearside’s Michael Calvert, edging home 2&1.

In the quarter-finals the previous day, champion Thompson was taken to the 22nd hole by experienced Wearside player David Vest, who had also gone to extra holes in the third round, eventually seeing off Wynyard youngster Sean Huntington at the 21st hole. Thompson came through 2&1 in a tight contest with Andrew Bell of Durham City.

Thompson won six matches in total on the way to his victory, crushing Durham City’s Richard Lee 6&5 in the first round, then defeating Ravensworth’s Jordan Bettis, a fellow Durham County player, 3&1 in round two.

Thompson’s triumph continued a great run of form for the teenager, who has also won the Northumberland and Durham Inter-County Foursomes Championship with playing partner Gavin Nesbit, a Junior Club Championship and a Men’s Club Championship this year.

His dad, Norman, boasts that since the age of five there hasn’t been a day where his son hasn’t swung a golf club.

And Thompson, who is studying golf management at the University of Central Lancashire, sees his future in the golf industry.

“I want to be involved in golf,” he said.

“With my degree, I’ve got a number of different options I could pursue.

“I’m going to see which part I enjoy most, and I look forward to seeing what opportunities come up.

“In the long-term, turning professional is my No 1 goal, but at the minute I want to continue my degree and carry on playing amateur for a few more years.”

Wearside’s Calvert could be proud of his efforts in reaching the last four on his home course.

He overcame Daniel Harrison (Ineos) by two holes, Whickham’s David Robson 2&1, Bradley Hildreth (Billingham) 2&1 and Sam Donald of Eaglescliffe by two holes.