John Deeble - worthy winner of the inaugural British Open

When the history of the Deeble family is finally written, a few days in the late summer of 2016 will feature prominently.  “Hosting an open is a great honour in itself and well worth all the work that goes into it,” reflects John Deeble of August 19/21.  “Moreover, I cannot thank our friends from all over Europe who made the journey, many of who I know made the trip out of respect and friendship for the Deebles as a whole. The focus of the open was to take away the politics of the game and get back to what we all love about the game, the family feel.  All the players were like one big family all weekend, not just the Deebles or the club members, but all the internationals as well.  It’s a weekend that none of us will ever forget,” ponders John Deeble of his first ever international open success.

John spent many hours and days in preparation for the event but he had lots of help.  All the work paid off.  “I was pleased to see such a strong field with some of the top players in the world playing. The course maintenance and support from the club members was amazing, every evening prior to the event people were there to help.”

Conscious of their pure love for Pitch and Putt, assistance for the Deebles came from all quarters.  John Deeble is very grateful.  “All my family and friends made it possible.  The sponsor Active Plant (the new champion’s employers) not only funded some of the event but also allowed me the freedom and time to organise this. Our families and club members were on hand all weekend to update scores, help in the kiosk and generally make everyone feel welcome and waited on when needed.”

Ireland’s Eamon Gibney led after the first round with a fine 49 in blustery conditions.  John Deeble was quite content with his opener. “My weekend plan was to take a score of 4 or 5 under for each of the 1st two rounds and see where that put me. I had a great start playing with two good friends.  Marian (Courtney) and Bert (Olthuis) are great company and players. They helped me through the first round to a 50, with one silly four.  I was on target and (said) just see what the rest do.”

On Saturday afternoon, John was paired with two of Ireland’s finest.  “Second round, again great company with Ian (Dillon) and Darren (Keogh). I started that round great and was four under through eight holes.  In my head I was picturing getting to 6 or 7 for the round but that went when I missed a few chances and then I made a 4 to finish -3 so -7 overall. Obviously at one behind I was well in contention.”

Playing with Darren Keogh and Eamon Gibney on Sunday, John began slowly. “Into the final round, I started very nervously and was lucky to be only +1 through 5 holes.  The four I had on hole 5 strangely picked me up. I birdied the 6th and 8th to get back in it. In front, Ian and Liam were making their moves and were both -4 for the front nine. Darren was creating chances as he had in round two but was failing to take them, so he was looking dangerous and we were all trying to catch Eamon."  Eamon Gibney had entered the final day on eight under par and one clear of John Deeble. 

John loves the spirit in which the top Pitch and Putt events are played.  “There was no animosity or negativity towards each other, we recognised each other’s good shots and acknowledged the other players.  That what is great about Pitch and Putt - we are competitive and determined to win but also have respect for each other.”

With two thirds of the final round complete at Dagenham, Gibney’s lead was still a single stroke. “When we hit the 13th,  we all had birdie chances and I was the only one to take the chance. This put me back level with Eamon with five to play”, recalls John. “On the 15th tee, I was very nervous and my hands were physically shaking.  I had a little drink and composed myself before finishing the round in a way which I had only dreamed of.  I pitched great for the last four holes and birdied the last three.  Both Eamon and Darren were making chances as well but I took mine.  Each putt I struck hit the hole at a good speed.”

There’s a huge sense of satisfaction as John Deeble contemplates his 54 hole aggregate of 150 and a three shot victory.  “There were a lot of people there watching and the expectations were on me to do well but I don't think many believed I would actually win it. Eamon and Darren were true gents all the way round.  To win this open means the world to me, I hope this win will just take me to the next level, I feel I can hold my own with the best in the game. I have shown it in the World Strokeplay and now in an open.”

Another Deeble tour de force loomed.  Steve Deeble outlasted Ireland’s Dennis Monaghan in extra holes for the senior open after a tie on 161.  John was hugely impressed.  “Then to watch Dad win the Seniors in a play-off just topped the fairytale story off. You dream of the event going well, dream and hope that people will come, you dream of a close finish for the main prizes and then finally you dream of coming out on top by birdieing the last hole.  My putt to win and Dad’s putt to win the seniors were from nearly the exact same spot and I couldn’t have written it any better.”

It won’t end there for John Deeble.  “Next, I plan on travelling to a few opens and try to win one in another country.” As befitting one of the main event organisers, John has some words of praise for the other category winners.   “The ladies event alone had a great field and I can't congratulate Mary Murray enough on her win.  She is a true lady and deserved winner. A good win for (nephew) Jordan (Deeble) in the juniors.  Yes, he was expected to win but he still had to perform on the day.  I was also extremely proud of my son Joe, 8 years old and he shot 2 62's and a 65.  That was great.”

The feel good factor from the inaugural British Open will have other positive benefits.  “The open was so successful for Pitch and Putt,” enthuses John.  “Firstly, we have more players playing the game at the course and our members are already planning on going to an international open next year. They have now seen how they are run and how great the players and characters are.  We are going to an open as a club next year.”

John is now reconsidering a British Open 2017.  “As for future opens, we weren’t planning on doing another one next year but this went so well and was such a great weekend that we simply have to. I will listen to the positive and negative feedback and make next year even better.”