Sporting Poppleton edged out of English amateur after training-club ruling proves costly

YORKSHIRE'S three-year grip on the English men's amateur championship ended when Wath's Nick Poppleton was defeated in his semi-final at The Berkshire.

Wath's Nick Poppleton bowed out of the English amateur at the semi-final stage to eventual winner Todd Clements, of Braintree (Picture: Leaderboard Photography).

But the county’s reputation for both expertise and fair play was raised as the 23-year-old lost by just one hole after a ruling that made a two-hole difference to the outcome.

And it was a ruling that Poppleton had called for himself following two holes of his last-four match with Braintree’s Todd Clements after noticing that he and caddie Alex Stubbs had left the Yorkshireman’s training club in his bag.

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After the match referee conferred with England Golf officials, the Lee Westwood Trophy holder was penalised one shot for each of the holes played for carrying a ‘non-conforming club’ – the DST Compressor, which has a curved shaft to replicate the shape of a normal shaft at impact.

It meant instead of standing one up, he found himself one down.

“It was just a schoolboy error from us,” stressed Poppleton, who was hoping to follow Nick Marsh (Huddersfield), Joe Dean (Lindrick) and Dan Brown (Masham) as the fourth consecutive winner of the English men’s amateur title.

“They did not warn us on the first tee saying, ‘have you got 14 clubs?’, but you don’t expect that at this late stage. We have to take the responsibility ourselves, me and Alex.

“It was a 50-50 split between me and Alex, we both messed up a little bit, but it was just one of those things. We are not the first and we won’t be the last.

“It is not really a lesson learned because I have asked five referees at five different events if it is classed as a golf club and no one has been able to give an answer.

“So at least I have an answer now. I just have to be careful to take it out of the bag every time after I have warmed up.”

He fell three down after six holes and then, after an hour’s break because of the threat of lightning, remained three down with four to play.

An eagle at 15 played its part in Poppleton taking the match to the last where he holed a 40ft putt for par, but Clements two-putted to match it and win one up.

“Todd holed so many good putts,” acknowledged Poppleton. “He never cracked, never gave us anything. He’s a good friend, and he played some great golf. Fair play to him.”

Hallamshire’s Alex Fitzpatrick had lost his quarter-final by the same margin, to eventual runner-up Jack Gaunt (Drayton Park), who lost 2&1 in the final to Poppleton’s conqueror.