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Harry bounces back from adversity to lift Welsh Open title

29 Apr 24

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Royal Porthcawl’s Harry Watkins has bounced back from years of injury to win the Welsh Men’s Open Stroke Play Championship, leading from start to finish at Tenby Golf Club.

He held off the challenge from three of the Wales team which had just finished third in European Nations Cup, with the top three players in the international event all being Welsh.
Welshpool’s Tomi Bowen raced through the field to finish one shot back on the final day with a 65, matching the opening day score of Watkins, with Royal Porthcawl’s Matt Roberts in third two further shots back.

They were both part of the Wales team that finished third in Europe, with Euro Nations winner James Ashfield tied sixth as part of a strong home performance, Langland Bay’s Joe Jones in tied fourth.

It was easily the biggest win of Watkins’ career after having to rebuild his body, mind and swing following shoulder injuries caused by epileptic seizures, as he took a five shot lead from Royal Porthcawl clubmate Roberts into the final round.

“This feels a bit surreal,” he admitted after lifting the trophy. “I have been through a lot in the past few years with injuries and surgeries, so to finally get a win is a pretty good feeling.

“I only really realised last night that I had the chance to go wire to wire. I was staying with Matt for the week so it was very friendly competition, I was trying to block out what this would mean because there were difficult conditions on the last day.

“I had no idea what the other scores were, but I was playing with Matt so I was nervous when he got within two shots.

“There were some friendly faces smiling on the 18th so I figured I had the lead, but I did not know by how much and I raced the birdie putt five feet past the hole.

“I did not know I needed the putt back to avoid a play-off, which is maybe just as well as that would have made me more nervous.”

Watkins, aged 24, graduated from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee last summer and is looking to concentrate on golf after a torrid few years.

“I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 17 and have been on medicine since then, which has meant I have been free of seizures,” he explained.

“However I would come round from those seizures with a lot of shoulder pain. When I dislocated my shoulder reaching out to pick up a football, I discovered I had damaged the bones and torn every ligament.

“I needed surgery on both shoulders, which made things harder. It affected my swing and swing speed, and I was not able to play for a while.

“I always had good support around reminding me I am good enough to get across the line, but I have had some struggles with self-confidence – it is easy to doubt yourself when you have been through such adversity.”


Watkins has worked with Wales Golf biomechanics consultant Dr Mark Bull and sports injury expert Dr Brendan McLaughlin to rebuilt his golf game. “Mark has been helping me to make sure my swing is healthy and not putting pressure on both shoulders, while Brendan has helped me to get in the best shape physically and mentally. It was the mental side which was missing,” said the Porthcawl and Southerndown player.

“I have had to adapt my swing in quite a unique way and it has been frustrating, there were times when I could only hit putts and chips, but both surgeries have been successful.
“Having been injured and away in America, this is my first season being able to play events in Wales for five years. I came sixth in the Duncan Putter, which did a lot for my confidence coming into the Open Stroke Play.”

Wales Golf Competitions Manager Dan Fullager added, “Congratulations to Harry in what has been a very impressive return to Wales Golf events.

“It was also great to see such a strong Welsh performance across the board in a field which included plenty of top players from around the UK and Europe.

“Tenby were excellent hosts, the course was in top condition and provided a very good challenge for all the players.

“We also have to thank the staff and volunteers for doing such a good job in helping the championship run so smoothly.”

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