Golf: Calm Horton negotiates safely a test of nerves: Royal Jersey luminary outplays his peers at St Pierre

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THE plaque on the little wooden bench that sits by the side of the 18th tee is meant to be reassuring but it can have the opposite effect. 'Worried about the lake?' it says. 'Do not despair. Arwyn needed a three for a gross 63 and took 11. He still won the competition.' The message is in affectionate memory of one Arwyn Griffiths but it is also a reminder of the dangers lurking at St Pierre.

When Tommy Horton stood on the 18th 12 months ago he was in despair. By hitting it into the water at the 15th and 17th he had squandered a comfortable lead in the St Pierre Seniors Classic and Neil Coles overhauled him. Yesterday Horton exacted his revenge on both the course and Coles by winning the championship in fine style.

The dapper Horton, who will be 53 next month, was top of the European Seniors Order of Merit last season by virtue of winning the last two tournaments and thus his victory yesterday made it three in a row. Despite what happened to him last year he has a good record around St Pierre.

On the regular Tour he won the Dunlop Masters here in 1978 and his first prize then of more than pounds 8,000 was matched pound for pound by yesterday's reward. It was not the only coincidence. Sixteen years ago his tee shot to the 18th, a monstrous par three of 237 yards, drifted into the rough to the left of the green and he got up and down in two to save his par.

He found himself in an identical place yesterday and again got a three after holing from 10 feet. The only difference is that in 1978 he used a conventional putter. Now he uses the long pendulum putter favoured by the more mature player. Horton followed two level-par rounds of 71 with a 70 and he was the only player to finish under par for the championship.

Horton, who is attached to the Royal Jersey club, won by three strokes from Brian Huggett and by four from Coles. Huggett, who won this event two years ago, returned a 72 in the final round, Coles a 74.

Horton, who began the day at level par with Coles and David Butler, lost a share of the lead when he three- putted the second. However, after Coles missed birdie opportunities at the 10th and 11th Horton drew clear. Coles made a hash of the par-five 12th by driving into an oak tree to the left of the fairway and when he holed out from seven feet it was to limit the damage to a bogey six.

At the short 13th the 59-year-old Coles could have expected to narrow the gap after finding the heart of the green while Horton was in a bunker 20 yards to the right of the flag. Horton holed his sand shot for a two. Now all that remained was for him to negotiate safely the closing holes.

He hit an iron off the tee for safety and, with 133 yards to the green, which is surrounded by water, he hit a soft nine-iron 20 feet short of the flag. The penultimate hole also triggered bad memories. Last year his approach shot found a watery grave and it cost him a double-bogey six. Yesterday he hit his approach into the trap at the front of the green. 'It was always going to be there rather than flirting with the water,' he said.

From the bunker he splashed out to within a foot of the hole to register another conservative par and only a catastrophe of Arwyn proportions on the 18th could deny him.

ST PIERRE SENIORS CLASSIC (Chepstow) Final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 212 T Horton 71 71 70. 215 B Huggett 73 70 72. 216 N Coles 71 71 74. 218 D Butler 75 67 76; J Morgan 73 73 72. 219 V Snell 71 73 75. 220 L Higgins 75 71 74; M Gregson 69 78 73; B Waites 73 75 72; R Botts (US) 73 75 72. 221 J Fourie (SA) 73 74 74; N Drew 74 75 72. 222 J Kinsella 74 71 77; P Ferranti (US) 74 72 76; P Green 71 74 77.