Robert and Elizabeth Culley were crowned R&A 9 Hole Challenge champions after 91,000 golfers entered this year's competition
Husband and wife duo Robert and Elizabeth Culley 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.
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 150th Open grandstands.
From the 20 team pairings, it was the Culley duo from Ivinghoe Golf Club – a nine-hole course in Buckinghamshire – who won the Stableford competition with a nett aggregate score of 36 points to be crowned 2022 champions. Paul Gaskell and Karen McIlroy (Greenacres) finished as runners-up a point behind, ahead of the New Zealand pair Judy Toovey and Peter Tremain on countback.
Peter Forster, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, presented the prizes to the leading teams.
"One of the best days of our lives"
“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 cameras clicking.
“I struggled on the first hole and I said to Elizabeth going down the second 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.”
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic experience and a dream to win. It’s been incredible. We are members of a nine-hole club at Ivinghoe and I don’t think clubs like them get enough kudos. I think this championship is fantastic for promoting nine-hole golf."
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said:
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge is going from strength to strength and it was fantastic to see the finalists enjoying their day on the Old Course ahead of The 150th Open.
“We had 91,000 golfers participating this year to earn the opportunity to compete in St Andrews and it’s been especially pleasing to see so many women and girls competing.
“It’s great to see this form of golf showcased on such a stage, highlighting the different ways golf can be played by all ages, abilities and backgrounds.”
An event open to all golfers
In glorious conditions over the Old Course, combined with a challenging wind, players with a handicap index ranging from two to 47 enjoyed the unforgettable opportunity.
The prize also included two nights’ accommodation in the Rusacks St Andrews Hotel, dinner in The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and a tour of The R&A World Golf Museum.
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge, first staged in 2016, is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes, and experience the physical and mental health benefits golf provides.
There has been an impressive growth of nine-hole golf in recent years, aided by the ease of the new World Handicap System to submit scores and the ability of golf to be played safely in a number of countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please visit randa.org/nine-hole-challenge for more information.