On-form Joe Bryce wins Battle Trophy at Crail

Seven days after finishing with a flourish to win the Craigmillar Park Open, Bathgate’s Joe Bryce repeated the trick to complete a notable early-season double by adding the Battle Trophy at Crail.

Joe Bryce closed with rounds of 66 and 68 to lift the Battle Trophy.

Bryce, 21, the latest in a long line of talented players to be produced by the West Lothian club, had shot 65-64 in the final two rounds to claim his victory in the capital and this last-day performance was equally impressive.

In the Fife event’s 21st anniversary, he closed with efforts of 66 and 68 over the Craighead Links in coming from six shots behind at the halfway stage to record a three-shot success over Williamwood’s George Burns. “It’s been an amazing two weeks,” said Bryce. “The key has been my putting as I am putting really well, while my short game is also very good. And the key in these four rounds at Crail was keeping out of trouble and I managed to do that.”

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Bryce, who had hinted that a good season was on the cards as he produced a string of eye-catching performances in the East Alliance over the winter, made his move by sweeping to the turn in four-under 33 in the third round.

He then birdied the 11th before dropping his only shot of the day at the next hole, but gains at the 15th and 17th completed a fine morning’s work, which earned him a two-shot lead over Burns heading into the final circuit.

Bryce opened that with eight straight pars before a burst of three birdies in four holes took him to the brink of victory, which he effectively sealed with another gain at the 15th – the third round in a row he’d picked up a shot there.

Peebles player Darren Howie finished third on 283, a shot ahead of both Ayr Belleisle’s Jim Johnston and Welshman Jake Hapgood, who led at halfway but saw his hopes of victory dashed by closing rounds of 75-73.

Elsewhere, 15-year-old Slovenian Pia Babnik stepped up her bid to play in the Junior Solheim Cup at Gleneagles later this year after completing an impressive wire-to-wire win in the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open.

Babnik, the world No 37, followed opening rounds of 66 and 69 over Troon Portland with a closing six-under-par 66 on Royal Troon, finishing seven shots clear of the field with a 15-under-par 201 total.

“This is the biggest win of my career,” she admitted afterwards. “The Junior Solheim Cup is my big aim this year and this is a big help towards that.”

Babnik, who recorded top-ten finishes in both the Portuguese and Spanish Women’s Championships earlier in the year, started the day with a four-shot lead and cruised to victory.

She rolled in a 30-foot putt for an eagle at the par-5 sixth before adding birdies at the seventh, ninth, 12th and 16th.

France’s Charlotte Bunel finished as her closest challenger after signing off with a 69, with Sharna Dutrieux third on seven-under, a shot ahead of the leading home player, Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam.

“I knew I was well ahead of the rest and just tried to keep calm and play my own game. I’m very happy,” added Babnik. “I enjoyed it so much. It was sunny and warm and no wind. It was great. This was my first time here. I handled it well. It was a course that suited me.

“I was four when I started golf. There are not many players in Slovenia, but we have enough courses. There’s a chance to train and practice properly.”

It was another solid performance in the event from top-ranked Scot McWilliam, who carded a third straight 70. “I think I’ve had every top five position in this championship except for first. Hopefully next year,” said the Curtis Cup player, who had been wishing for some wind for the final round.