5 Aug 2007

Elite Cymru golfer LLewellyn Matthews has become the first player for almost a quarter of a century to win the Welsh Amateur Championship in successive seasons.

Llewellyn Matthews

In the wind and rain at Harlech Matthews the 23-year-old former Southerndown greenkeeper who was a surprise qualifier for this year’s Open Championship, retained the title with a 2 & 1 defeat of Bath-based Ben Westgate in the 36-hole final at the Royal and St David’s links at Harlech.

The last person to achieve the feat was John Roger Jones, who won the crown at Southerndown in 1983 and successfully defended it at Prestatyn the following year.

He now looks set to be named in the Walker Cup team to face the Americans in Northern Ireland next month.

"I have done all I can and I have to leave it to the selectors now," said Matthews after beating Bath-based Ben Westgate 2 & 1 in the 36-hole final over the windswept Royal St David’s links.

"One thing is for certain – I will be leaving my phone on. I played well this week and felt I made very few mistakes."

Matthews’ remarkable run of form over the last 10 months started with him leading the qualifiers into the matchplay stages of the 2006 Amateur Championship at Sandwich and then reaching the last 16.

He subsequently beat the brilliant Rhys Davies to win his first Welsh crown at Pyle and Kenfig.

This year Matthews chalked up a stunning victory in the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy with a record low aggregate in June, qualified for the Open at Carnoustie and retained his Order of Merit title.

Now he has become the first player for 24 years to win two Welsh amateur titles on the trot.

"Just like last year, I started a little slowly, came into my own near the end of the first round and began strongly in the afternoon," said the Southerndown star.

Matthews was one down at the turn in the opening round, but squared by the 12th.

He went in front for the first time at the 16th with a 15-foot putt for a birdie three and knocked in a tricky five-footer at the 18th to open up a two-hole cushion.

After several exchanges he was still two up with four to play in the afternoon, but when 28-year-old Westgate lost a ball off his second shot at the 32nd Matthews took advantage to move closer to his second title.

But Westgate, who plays out of Trevose in Cornwall, was determined not to surrender without a fight and he rolled in a 12-footer at the next to keep the match alive.

With rain sweeping across the magnificent links, though, Matthews eventually closed the door in front of one of the smallest championship final crowds in recent times.

He canned a 10-foot putt on the 35th after Westgate had failed with one from twice that length.