An husband and wife team from Buckinghamshire emerged victorious in The R&A 9 Hole Challenge Final as golfers enjoyed the dream opportunity to play the Old Course on the eve of The 150th Open at St Andrews.
Robert and Elizabeth Culley, who are both members at Ivinghoe Golf Club, a 9-hole course near Leighton Buzzard, beat 19 other pairs over a composite 9-hole course to capture the title at the Home of Golf.
From the 20 team pairings, the Culleys won the Stableford competition with a nett aggregate score of 36 points to be crowned 2022 champions. Paul Gaskell and Karen McIlroy, from Greenacres Golf Club in Northern Ireland, finished a point behind in second place, ahead of the New Zealand pair Judy Toovey and Peter Tremain on countback.
A record 91,000 golfers entered nine-hole qualifying events held at courses throughout Great Britain and Ireland, Australia and New Zealand for the chance to reach the showpiece final. Forty finalists, including 11-year-old Kaiden Marsh from Styal Golf Club in Cheshire, enjoyed the experience of a lifetime by competing over holes 1–4 and 14–18 of the famed links and savouring the atmosphere in front of the Open grandstands.
Robert Culley said: “It’s definitely been one of the best golf days of our lives – we were a dream team! It was really nerve wracking on the first tee. I’ve never teed off in those circumstances before with so many people around and so many cameras clicking. I really struggled on the first hole, and as we were walking down the second I said to Elizabeth that I didn’t think it was going to be our day. But it’s amazing how things can turn around. Playing in front of the grandstands made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, it was stunning.”
Elizabeth added: “It’s been an absolutely fantastic experience and a dream to win. We are members of a nine-hole club at Ivinghoe and I don’t think clubs like ours get enough kudos for how they help introduce people to golf. I think this championship is fantastic for promoting nine-hole golf.”
In addition to winning a pair of silver salvers, the Culley’s prize included a two-night stay a the famous Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews, dinner in the R&A’s clubhouse and a tour of The R&A World Golf Museum.