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Vicars Cross captain Kenny Close clinched a place in the Golfplan Insurance PGA Pro-Captain Challenge final just six months after undergoing knee surgery.
Close teamed up with PGA Professional Martin O’Connor to win the North qualifying event held at Dunham Forest Golf Club.
The Cheshire duo carded a 10-under-par round of 62 to win by one shot ahead of Freddy Valenti and David McIntyre, of Warrington’s Poulton Park Golf Club, Richard Reed and Robert Blair from Glen Gorse Golf Club, Leicestershire, and Kieron Gaskell and Mark Ord from Bolton’s Westhoughton Golf Club.
Close and O’Connor will now play in the £25,000 final at Lumine Mediterránea Beach & Golf Community in Spain at the end of November.
As far as the 59-year-old Close was concerned, the result was a personal triumph as he could barely hit a ball earlier this year following knee surgery.
The retired builder from Eastham on the Wirral explained: “I needed a new knee and went into hospital back in February.
“It meant I was on walking sticks for a while but I was back playing again by the middle of May.
“I couldn’t do much at first but now it feels as good as new.”
“So to win this with Martin is fantastic and the trip to Spain to play in the final is a great prize.”
Close, who plays off 11, admitted it was a tense wait before knowing he and O’Connor had won.
“When we came in ahead of teams who’d made nine under par, so we knew we had a chance,” he added.
“But you always wonder if someone’s going to come and beat you at the end – thankfully they didn’t.”
O’Connor admitted the win made up for missing out on the Lombard Trophy PGA National Pro-am Championship Final at the same venue in June.
He was joint second then but O’Connor made no mistake this time.
“We were seven-under after the front nine and picked up our only dropped shot at the 10th, but then we made four birdies in a row,” he said.
“And we divided the birdies up between us, Kenny made five and I made six, so if your captain’s playing well then you stand a good chance of winning.”
“But that was actually the first time we’d played alongside each other in a competition so we did well!”
GOLFPLAN INSURANCE PGA PRO-CAPTAIN CHALLENGE supported by Sompo Canopius North A Regional Qualifier at Dunham Forest Golf Club, Friday 26 August 2016
|1=||-10 (62)||Martin O’Connor||Kenneth Close||Vicars Cross|
|2=||-9 (63)||Freddy Valenti||David McIntyre||Poulton Park|
|Richard Reed||Robert Blair||Glen Gorse|
|Kieron Gaskell||Mark Ord||Westhoughton|
|5=||-8 (64)||Tony Stevens||Keith Worrall||Davenport|
|John Barclay||Michael Tonge||Lancaster|
|Nic Taylor||Chris Hendy||Sitwell Park|
|Stephen Marr||Clive Allen||Withington|
Image provided by Getty Images.