MARK Talbott (Thorpe Hall) has been one of the East region success stories in 2019 and capped a great season in the region by qualifying for next month’s PGA Play-Offs in Turkey.
Talbott, 31, won five pro-ams on the schedule but the main target was a top-three spot on the Order of Merit.
Going into the final event, the KJW Millbrook Masters at The Millbrook, he was sat in fourth spot and knew that only a big performance would do.
A first-round 73 (one-over-par) had him in the hunt but it was a closing round of 70 that left him tied-second to tournament winner Jason Levermore. The result was good enough for Talbott to climb to second on the overall Order of Merit behind fellow Essex PGA ace Levermore, with James Ruebotham (Welwyn Garden City) locking down third place.
Talbott said: “The top-three in the Order of Merit has been a goal of mine for a few years. But I’ve always kind of got off to a bad start early on in the season and had a few good results at the end to get myself up near or within the top-10. So this was the first time I’ve ever actually had a chance of finishing in the top-three going into the final event and managed to do it, so I’m over the moon.
“I didn’t play very well in the first round at the Millbrook but stayed very patient and made a couple of great up and downs on 17 and 18 when I was staring bogies, if not double bogies, in the face. So I was really happy with one-over in the first roundd. Although it wasn’t sitting exactly where I wanted it on the leaderboard, it was good enough to be in the position where I could still achieve what I wanted in terms of getting the amount of points that I needed to finish in top three.
“I was drawn with (fellow top-three challenger) James Ruebotham in the second round. Obviously there were a lot of variables going into it, but I knew that if I could beat him by a couple of shots and shoot a half-decent score I’d earn enough points to get past him. We had a real good battle to be fair. I started with three birdies and he was two-under after 4, so we both got off to good starts, which I think helped both of us.”
Talbott ended up making a birdie-birdie finish, including a 35-foot birdie putt from the fringe on 18. “It was the longest putt I’ve holed for a while, let’s put it that way,” reflects Talbot. Playing partner Ruebotham dropped a stroke at the last, but his tied-eighth finish was enough to book a PGA Play-Offs berth. “We pushed each other along and both got through,” added Talbott.
Talbott, aside from his regional feats, also finished a best-ever tied-11th in the Titleist and Footjoy PGA Professional Championship and he is aiming to sign off 2019 with a flourish over November 27-29 at Antalya.
By coincidence Talbott will get an early sighter of the PGA Sultan Course when he and fellow Thorpe Hall professional Joe Ellis taking a coaching party to Turkey in early November. “One of the courses we’re playing is where the Play-Offs is being held,” he confirmed. “So I will get a good look at the course a few weeks before we go out there for the Play-Offs and hopefully I can get a few lines off tees and whatever to get ready for it.”
Certainly after the year he has enjoyed Talbott will not be lacking for confidence going into the prestigious tournament. And like the rest of his rivals in the select field he is all too aware of the opportunities on offer – not least the BMW PGA Championship – for those who finish there or thereabouts
He summed up: “The main ambition is to play at Wentworth, so top four is the priority, which I guess everyone playing the Play-Offs is going for. But, from what I’ve heard about the course it could potentially suit me, so I’m looking forward to having a go and seeing what I can do.”