ANTHONY Harwood held his form, and his nerve, to lift his first Harold Ryden Trophy at the third attempt.

The Blackburn golfer saw off the strong challenge of five times winner, and holder, Mark Ashworth, to claim the title in East Lancashire Golf Association’s biggest event of the year.

In a repeat of the 2015 final, Harwood saw an early three shot lead disappear, but after winning the 17th hole, he held it together on the last to take a half and claim a one up victory.

The final, held at Darwen Golf Club on Thursday, brought to an end an excellent five rounds of golf for Harwood, who carded rounds of 75 and 77 to qualify for the knockout stages in fourth place.

Victories over home golfers Neil Durkin and Tom Yates booked his place in the final, and it was to prove third time lucky for the 2002 and 2015 runner-up as he saw off the challenge of Clitheroe ace Ashworth.

“It is third time lucky after a couple of near misses,” said a delighted Harwood.

“It went my way this time and I was pleased with that.

“It is a really tough tournament to win, it’s five rounds with the 36 holes on the Saturday.

“I had tough matches on the Monday and Tuesday, were supposed to play on Wednesday but we got the day off for rain.

“It’s a hard week because like anything with amateur golf the game you have one day isn’t necessarily the game you get the next.

“So to keep turning up and keep performing it feels like a good achievement.

“Beating Mark, he’s the best player in this area.  He’s county champion, defending champion of this, so to beat someone of his calibre feels really good.”

After carding two strong rounds on the Saturday, Harwood overcame Neil Durkin (Darwen) 2&1 in his quarter-final match, before booking his spot in the final with victory over another Darwen golfer, Tom Yates, as he triumphed on the last to win by one shot.

Ashworth, who plays off plus two, looked on course for his sixth title after carding rounds of 76 and 75 over the weekend, before beating Jordan Brown and Liam Turner (both Darwen) by 4&3 and 3&2 respectively.

But Harwood made a great start to the final, before holding his nerve in the closing holes to record victory.

Harwood, who plays off scratch, added: “I had a really good start, Mark made a couple of mistakes, and I found myself three up after six holes.

“Mark then started playing some really solid golf, I hit a couple of loose shots, and we were all square after nine.

“I knew that he would have a period where he would play golf that I couldn’t keep up so for me it was about capitalising on the good start that I made on the back nine.

“After nine holes, all square, it can go either way.

“I went one behind on 12, but won that straight back at 13 which was important.

“The next few holes were really tight, but I won 17 with a great putt and then managed to halve the last.

“I hit a good tee shot, he went in to the trees and had to chip out.  I hit my second shot just to the right of the green but hit a decent chip.

“He ended up making a five which left me with two putts to win.”

Beaten semi-finalist Yates had seen off Chris Nuttall on the 20th hole to reach the last four, while Turner received a bye after Ben Scott withdrew from the competition.

Organiser Dave Ellis was delighted with the quality of the final which he said was testament to the tournament as he reflected on another good week of golf.

“I would very much like to thank Darwen Golf Club, its members and staff, for making it such a successful week once again,” he said.