Third time lucky for solid Smart
Henry Smart clinched a maiden Gosling’s International Invitational title at the third attempt in dramatic fashion at Belmont Hills yesterday.
The English professional came from two shots back to win the $70,000 championship by as many after carding an impressive three-under 67 in blustery conditions to finish the 54-hole event at four under.
Smart stormed into the lead after rolling in the first of five birdies at the par 5, sixth as overnight leader Dennis Hendershott, of Canada, began to unravel.
But the job was far from done as he became entangled in an epic tug-of-war with Canadian Derek Gillespie over the lead which swapped hands three times before Smart finally pulled away with four holes left to play and never looked back.
Smart, who hails from Wimbledon, held a one shot advantage heading to the last hole where he got up and down for birdie to shut the door tight on his nearest rival and get over the final hump having finished runner up at the event the previous two years.
“It feels amazing to finally win after being so close the last two years,” said Smart, who earned $13,000 for the win.
“I hit it really solid all week and holed some putts when I needed to to.
“I was two shots behind going into the day, but I knew if I did my own thing and played solid I’d have a chance because I’ve been here before in the last round and I know how tricky this golf course is. I just came out and was like ‘I’m just going to enjoy it’ and that’s what I did.”
Gillespie did well to come from four back to surge into a two-shot lead at the turn.
However, in Smart he encountered a man on a mission who ultimately prevailed after catching fire with the putter on the back nine where he carded four birdies, including back to back at 10 and 11, to remain in the hunt.
“I had a really had a good back nine and to make the birdie on the last hole was pretty cool,” Smart added.
Gillespie also carded a three under 67, which included four birdies and a solitary bogey that all but handed Smart victory, to finish at two under.
John Jonas, of the United States, fired the lowest round of five under to finish third at one under.
Overnight leader Hendershott carded a four over to finish tied for fourth at one over.
The steady putting which the Canadian produced in the first two rounds eluded him during the final round when it mattered most.
“Belmont is not one of my favourite places to play but I was mentally trying to prepare to play this golf course I’ve never played that well,” Hendershott said.
“I didn’t play too poorly, I just didn’t make any putts. I made nothing today so that was the difference.”
It wasn’t a case of all gloom and doom for the Canadian as he won the senior professional title by a convincing 12 shot margin.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the week that’s where I would’ve finished and won the senior side of it I would’ve said, ‘OK, great’,” he added.
“Yes, I’m very disappointed with the way that I played today. But with success comes failure and you have to accept the failure and I’ve had some successful things happen to me this season.”
Camiko Smith topped the local field and was tied for eighth at seven over.
Smith saved his best for last as he closed out with a two -under, 68 that contained four birdies and two bogeys either side of the turn.
“I’m pleased with 68 which was a good score considering the weather conditions,” he said.
“Obviously, I let a few putts slip away from me. But coming down the stretch I really stuck with it and grinded it out and got a few up and downs to basically keep my game sharp the last few holes.”
Josh Alexander edged nearest rival Stefano Barioni by one shot to win the amateur title with Shannon Johnson finishing a further two shots back to round off the top three.
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