Golf: Ben Genese bows to sad fate

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The Independent Online
ANYBODY bearing the name of Ben Genese has to be prone to the fickle finger of fate. Yesterday, but for being caught in a traffic jam, he could have gone through to the third round of the Amateur Championship over the great links here.

Genese, playing in the championship for the first time, set out from his home in Stirling in plenty of time for his match against Calvin O'Carroll. However, he got stuck in roadworks near Perth and Michael Bonallack, the secretary of the Royal and Ancient, calculated that Genese was four and a half minutes late.

Had he been more than five minutes late he would have been disqualified. As it is, his penalty was forfeiture of the first hole and that was possibly crucial for after 18 holes Genese and O'Carroll were all square. The match was resolved at the second extra hole, the 20th, where O'Carroll, from Brynhill in South Wales, chipped to three feet for a winning par after Genese found a bunker with his approach shot.

'I was caught in an horrendous traffic jam and I was beating my head against the steering wheel,' Genese said. 'I actually got to the first tee on time after running from the car-park but my clubs and shoes were still in the boot. By the time I was ready they ruled that I was late. I wasn't going to argue.' Under the one-hole penalty, he and his opponent walked straight to the second tee.

By rights Ben Genese should be a PE instructor but in fact he is a 24-year-old assistant manager of a hotel in Stirling. His Christian name is Benedict but nobody passes up the opportunity to abbreviate it. At school he was ribbed unmercifully. He admits that his parents have a sense of humour. 'Yeah, thanks a lot mum.'

Michael Welch, the prodigy from Hill Valley in Shropshire, went through to the third round with a 3 and 1 victory over Gareth Lashford. In the qualifying rounds here on Monday and Tuesday Welch scored 73 and 75, eight over par. An indication of the appalling weather conditions is that he was the leading qualifier by a margin of four strokes.

The 19-year-old Welch, who led the regional qualifying at Beau Desert and the final qualifying at Dunbar in the Open Championship in July, is coached by Alex Lyle, Sandy's father, and two years ago he won 10 titles. Compared with the first two days, conditions were kinder yesterday and Welch began with eight pars. At the 12th he hit a three-iron 212 yards to three feet for a birdie and had another at the 14th by which stage he was four up. Lashford, a 29-year- old painter and decorator - he is presently employed on giving the clubhouse at Malden in Surrey, where he is a member, a facelift - made a match of it by winning the 15th and 16th holes but Welch ended it at the next by holing from 15 feet for a birdie three.

Stephen Gallacher, the 17-year- old nephew of the Ryder Cup captain Bernard, also went through, beating Robert Bennett 3 and 2. Gallacher, the reigning Scottish amateur champion, took heart with an outrageous escape at the seventh hole. Although driving out of bounds, he sank a 30-foot putt and halved the hole when his opponent took three putts. At the next Gallacher got down from 25 feet to go one up and Bennett, like Ben Genese, had to bow to fate.