WATH’S Nick Poppleton is on familiar ground in the English men’s amateur championship having reached the quarter-finals for the second year in succession.
But he is also familiar enough with the vagaries of match play to know that the luck of the draw can be a deciding factor as he attempts to add the national match play title to the stroke play crown he claimed earlier this summer.
The point was emphasised on Friday by the fate of Lindrick’s Sam Rook, Poppleton’s good friend and a Sheffield Union team-mate, who succumbed in the round of 16 despite being three under par through 16 holes.
“Sam said he played some nice golf, but the kid he came up against was seven under,” said Poppleton, who had to play five extra holes in his third-round match to beat Royal Birkdale’s Matthew Nuttall before enjoying a more comfortable 3&2 win in the afternoon against Hartlepool’s Jack Ainscough.
“You just try to outscore the guy in front of you, but if he shoots seven under and he’s outscored you then you shake his hand at the end of the match and say, ‘well done’.”
That both Nuttall and Ainscough had to utter those sentiments to Poppleton owed much to the England and Great Britain & Ireland international rediscovering the control that had seen him place third in the qualifying stages behind Rook and another Yorkshireman, Sam Bairstow (Hallowes).
“I played nicely around Formby in the stroke play, bogey free,” he said. “That was my first-ever bogey-free round in tournaments.
“Then I was just a little bit slow out of the blocks in the match play, and didn’t really putt great. Slowly I got it together and towards the end I started to hit some really nice shots and I started to hole some putts in the last match when I needed to.
“It is nice to feel the game getting better as the tournament develops rather than sometimes you run out of steam.”
Rook had won in extra holes himself in the morning, at the 20th against Chartham Park’s Harry Bayley, before running into Northamptonshire’s Callum Farr and his birdie salvo.
On Saturday morning in the quarter-finals Poppleton will face Lansdown’s Joe Long as he looks to reach the semi-finals, as he did a year ago.