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To help celebrate the start of our season, join us for our AGM PLUS on March 21st, which includes golf and dinner at Tandridge GC, for the price of just £85. Or join us just for dinner @ £45. See Fixtures and apply online.

12 OWs joined nearly 800 others at a black-tie dinner at the
Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane to celebrate 100 years since the Halford Hewitt was first played. All 64 ‘Hewitt schools’ were represented, plus several guests, some of them representing the various courses on which the Hewitt has been played over the years.

The dinner was preceded by the draw for the 2024 competition, to be played on 11th-14th April. Whitgift were drawn to play Shrewsbury, in the first round.

l tor: Dudley Thompson, Oscar Bailey, Carl Robertson-Hills; Tom Bloxsome; Martin Hayes     

l to r: Jeremy Stanyard, Nic Gates, Chris Blundell, Stuart Hollins, Richard Gibson, Matt Webster

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The society’s 2024 fixture list has been published on this website. Please see under ‘Fixtures’ in the menu bar. The first formal event will be the AGM and dinner on Thursday 21st March, at Tandridge Golf Club. For the first time, it will be possible to play golf before the evening events; please see under Fixtures for more details. After that, the first formal competition of the year will be the Thompson Tankards, a foursomes event at Prince’s in April. This is our only society foursomes event of the year, and comes at the start of Hewitt Week (see above).

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The late summer hot spell may have been winding towards its end when we visited Piltdown but it was still very good weather and, much as at Royal Ashdown the previous month, the heather was in fine shape! It all goes to show that a good golf course doesn’t need bunkers to make it challenging and interesting.

Piltdown had just sanded the fairways so we were granted ‘preferred lies’ on the mown stuff; in fact the sand provided a useful clue as to where the ball had landed, puffing up as it did when struck. The greens were a little slow, but were not themselves sanded.

We had four guests in our number, and the results put them front and centre. David Bedwell, of Reigate Hill, showed everyone else how it should be done, and scored 34 points, a total which most of the OWs present considered a very good score on a difficult course. Second prize also went to a guest, this time Suffolk resident Gary Seaman, who scored 31. After that, there was a cluster of members vying for third place (and the Autumn cup, which could only be won by a member). Alan Scovell, Mark Haswell and Nigel Huxtable all carded 30
points, and all scored 14 going out and 16 coming back. The need for too much scrutiny of the countback position was avoided however, because David Hughes, who had considered scrapping his card after a poor start  over the first four holes, recovered (and surprised) himself to such an extent that he scored 11 on the front and a highly commendable 19 on the back, which trumped the others’ 16, and so won him the Cup (pictured with President Pip Burley). Never give up!

All were comforted by Piltdown’s evening curry and so much choice of dessert that some felt compelled to sample more than one.

Mark Chatham emerged as the ultimate winner of the society’s Challenge Cup, a knockout tournament played by members throughout the summer months; he overcame Nigel Huxtable in the final, played at Wildernesse.

The season concluded with the Autumn Tour, started in 2011 and managed ever since by John Gould, with his customary precision and bonhomie. This year we played, or tried to play, Seaford, Royal Eastbourne and Crowborough Beacon, relatively local courses compared to some visited over the last 12 years. Seaford was windy on top of the hills overlooking the English Channel, but in fine condition; Eastbourne was considered a little ‘quirky’ by those who played it; and Crowborough was as tricky and tiring as ever, but beautiful with it. Seventeen players played on the tour, and Don Anderson emerged on top over the three days, playing with his trademark touch and tidiness. Thanks are due, as ever, not only to John for his organisation, but also to Tony Harris for managing the finance, and to Alan Scovell for keeping track of all the scores and the sundry awards of prizes for just about everyone that moved – and one or two who didn’t (Dave Mason won the Worzel Gummidge award for fashion choice without even turning up!). Photos of Seaford, Eastbourne, and Crowborough are shown, in order, below.

 

Seaford

Royal Eastbourne

Crowborough Beacon

 

The close season is now upon us, but there is planning afoot for our events next year, not least of them the Halford Hewitt in its centenary year. Whitgift will have a new captain, Matt Webster, who will be putting his squad of scratch golfers through its paces in order to establish the five pairs who will represent Whitgift in the 2024 competition. Watch this space for more details, or look out for news on oldwhitsgolf.com.

 

 

Our August open meeting was the Hornsey-Walker Cup, looking resplendent having been polished and with the base now firmly fixed to the cup by 2022 winner Andrew Winterbotham. The cup was first presented in 1927 and so it is approaching its centenary; we shall have to plan an appropriate celebration.

The fixture was held at Royal Ashdown Forest GC, and this time we played the Old Course, with players having

the choice of using the yellow or red tees. Whichever choice was made, the key for all players was to keep the ball on the fairway, since the slightest deviation either side meant playing the next shot from the prevalent heather, which was in full and lush condition. So much so that many a ball was lost, and many a 3-minute spell spent foraging in the purple heather for a glimpse of white (or yellow). No-one completed their round in less than 5 hours.

Having finished as runner-up on his last two outings, Nigel Huxtable was due a win, although his victory speech afterwards suggested that he had miscalculated, since he said that he wanted to avoid the consequent cut to his society handicap! Nigel’s winning score of 32 points, very  creditable in the conditions, was also achieved by David Absalom, who lost out on countback by the narrowest of margins, one less than Nigel on the last six holes. Third was David Hughes (29 points) who also finished ahead on countback, this time at the expense of Mike Berners Price (also 29).

We welcomed three new members, Daniel Emkes, Trevor Watkins and Ben Rudall, all making a debut appearance on probably the most difficult course of the summer!

The next (and last) outing of 2023 is at Piltdown GC, in September.

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We played a match against Croham Hurst GC in August. All very enjoyable in lovely weather, but a 4-0 win for the hosts.

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The frenetic activity of June is over and the relative calm of July has arrived. Why there should be such a difference is beyond me!

Anyway, July brought with it our President’s Day meeting at Addington Palace and there was a decent turnout for this one, although still low by historical standards. Our President, Pip Burley, now in his fourth year of office, teed off first alongside Messrs Forbes, Skeen and Champness (all pictured alongside), and another five groups followed behind. All participants seemed to enjoy themselves, on a generally fine day on a fine course, with traditionally fast and true greens, and a varied background of holes, some of which wind their way through narrow gaps in the trees and others of which are in open parkland, nearer the palace itself. A good challenge.

It was fitting that Pip himself should be amongst the prize winners, finishing third on countback from Peter Kelley with 34 points. Second was Nigel Huxtable, a member of Addington Palace, and demonstrating the validity of his handicap with 36 points, 18 on each nine holes. Nigel may have regretted sharing his knowledge of the course with playing partner Mark Chatham (pictured right, with Pip), who pipped him to the President’s prize with 37 points; apparently the lead changed hands only on the 16th hole, where Nigel found a bunker and looked likely to stay there for the duration.

Thanks are due to John Gould, who managed the match for us superbly, but was unable to participate because of injury.

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Over 80 people – OWs, parents, staff and guests – attended either the golf or the dinner, or both, at the society’s charity gala day on behalf of Whitgift for All. In total, £20,000 was raised for the school’s bursary fund, enough to fund one boy for one school year, ample reward for a day when members and guests enjoyed fabulous weather for golf at Croham Hurst and then again, during the early evening when everyone mingled together on the School quadrangle for drinks prior to dinner in Big School.

Croham Hurst was in first-class order as players went out in fourballs to compete for both individual and team prizes as well as for nearest the pin and longest drive. There was some encouragement for participants with Laura Bonar, a member of her County women’s elite team, stationed on the difficult, long par 3 16th, gifting her tee shot for the team to choose before putting out. Always provided the team had contributed towards charity funds first! The prize-giving followed the golf (right, presented by David Creswell, deputy head) with the team prize won by Andy Marshall, Phil Marshall, Ed Parsons and Malcolm McKinlay (88 points, pictured left), who pipped the runners-up, Peter Gale, Jonathan Gale, John Gould and Harry Sellers (87). Second prize in the individual competition was won by guest Tricia Topping (37 points) with best individual, Ed Parsons, taking the Whitgift Golf Charity Cup with a gross 68, scoring 40 stableford points off a handicap of 2.

Many golfers (but not all) then changed into black tie and made their way to the School where they joined Headmaster, Chris Ramsey, and other guests for dinner. Following a welcome by the Headmaster, who explained the objectives of WFA, Sarah Harvey and chef Leszek Karpinski laid on a magnificent three-course meal which was greatly enjoyed. Entertainment was provided by the four -piece jazz group, Kingham Express, comprising four current pupils; Reuben Karas, Lucian Ng, Roony Ng, and Bakari Leon. Not only was their performance enthusiastically received but, later in the evening they were invited by guest Rob Holland to perform at his top West End venue, Brasserie Zedel in Picadilly. Dinner was followed by an auction entertainingly conducted by Simon Beck and Pip Burley, in which the generously donated items were soon snapped up by the assembled company.

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The match against the School, in early May, fell foul of thunder and lightning soon after the matches had got underway, and was soon abandoned with the greens waterlogged. However, it was notable that several quite young Whitgiftians are playing off low handicaps, which bodes well for golf at the school in the coming years, and for OW golf after that.

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Qualifying for the Grafton Morrish took place at Royal Wimbledon. A generally young and able Whitgift team – Nic Gates/Laurie Evans; Oscar Bailey/Harrison Sellers; Owen Richardson/Toby Kemp – competed against 12 other schools in scratch foursomes for the six qualifying places available. Nic Gates reports –

“Royal Wimbledon was in excellent condition, although that did make things a little tricky with lush rough and fast, firm greens. Despite the tough conditions the scoring from the other schools was high which makes our result hard to explain. We had a team of youngsters who had an average handicap of scratch, accompanied by myself as the more experienced member of the team.

Scratch foursomes stableford is an acquired skill, and following the post round discussions I think that the chasing of points led to a few non scoring holes; a few missed greens followed by a chip and 3 putts seemed to damage a few scorecards. A couple of short putts missed and some wayward driving led to a much lower than planned cumulative score. The pairs scored as followed: Gates and Evans 25; Bailey and Sellers 22; Richardson and Kemp 23.

70 points has qualified in the past, but it was 9 short of the required mark on Sunday. Only 3 points per pair (one par and one bogey) away from qualifying, but a poor collection of scores for all.”

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Distinctly better news for Nic Gates and Laurie Evans in the prestigious Alba Trophy, where the pair, representing the society, came third out of 42 pairs at the scratch medal foursomes event, held on a Woking course in great condition and with very fast greens. Nic tells us more –

A field of some of the best genuine amateur golfers in the south had assembled for a day of foursomes golf, and as the weather improved from bobble hat to short sleeves, the players set off to see how difficult scoring was going to be.  A shotgun start across 4 tees had the field on the course in good time and the competitors soon discovered how challenging the course could play. From the very tips of the black tees, Woking showed what a world class strategic challenge it could present. 

The morning was tough, with few pairs breaking 80, however the lunch was of a standard that made most forget the frustrations of the first 18 holes and vow to better their morning score. Some excellent white burgundy proved to be the catalyst for the afternoon round. An exciting start with a birdie and an eagle in the first four holes led to the best score of the day, a 72, which after a morning 80 left the OWs as leaders in the clubhouse. After a nervous yet delightful wait on the wonderful terrace overlooking the 14th green, the score of 152 was finally beaten by a shot by two other pairs.

Well done, Nic and Laurie. KCS OB won the event.

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Three matches are scheduled in the month of June, and we may have to reconsider this going forward, as numbers of available players are frequently an issue. This year, the Trinity match was held at Betchworth Park GC, a new venue for this fixture but it proved a good one for Whitgift, who prevailed 3-2 in the Croydon derby, and so reclaimed the Harrods Putter, the trophy for this fixture, after a gap of two years.

Numbers are rarely a problem at Tandridge for the match versus Old Alleynians, provided there are enough Tandridge members in the mix to act as hosts for the day, and so it proved again on a glorious day, on a course that is in first-rate condition and on greens that were lightning-fast. 16-a side is the most either side muster for any of its matches, and indeed Whitgift turned up with 17, due to an oversight by an already tested match captain, who had flown in from South Africa on the morning of the match and had to play with borrowed clubs. Nonetheless Jeremy Stanyard prevailed heroically alongside Ian Chicken in a match that went all the way to the 18th green, and their point proved to be the deciding feature in a narrow 41/2 – 31/2 win for Whitgift. An unusually healthy meal followed the golf, but the arrival of potatoes appeared to save the day for some.

The match against KCS has been cancelled due to a lack of numbers, this time on the KCS side.

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Whitgift’s relationship with the Schools Putting Competition has been a difficult one over the years, with relegation from the competition at fairly frequent intervals, often prompted by difficulties with getting a full team out. However there is now a Plate competition, especially for schools in the two-year absence that relegation entails, and so a useful team of four, led by Chris Jones, took to the putting green at Royal Wimbledon with a degree of optimism, undiluted by a rainstorm brought on by the month’s hot weather, which delayed the event marginally. Only four teams contested the prize, and in the end it came down to the last match of the ‘all play all’ format – Whitgift v Dulwich (again – see above) – in which a win for Whitgift would have resulted in a playoff for first place. But Ian Hunter’s putt on hole 17 stopped in the jaws, whilst Dulwich holed theirs, and so Dulwich won the Plate outright. Chris Jones finished third out of 16 in the individual table.

Our presence at the event does guarantee us a starting place in the main competition next year.

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Only eight players made it to the first tee for the Veterans’ Cup, played at a parched Shirley Park in temperatures approaching 30 degrees. Happily all eight also reached the 18th. One of our number was Robert Hollidge, who was a member at Shirley Park for 52 years before his move down to Canterbury, holding virtually every office at the club at one time or other, and consequently was awarded lifetime use of the golf course when he left. Robert was also a long-time secretary of the OWGS, captain and president, and has won more ‘open’ meetings than any other player. He represented the society in both the Grafton Morrish and Cyril Gray. In recognition of his efforts and successes on behalf of OWGS golf, Robert was presented by President Pip Burley with an ‘outstanding contribution’ award (photo left).

On the course, Robert scored 32 points and was beaten to the main prize by Tony Harris (right), who harvested a commendable 35, and by Nigel Huxtable (33).

 

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The Cyril Gray is a scratch foursomes competition for those over 50 years of age, contested by the same 32 Hewitt schools each year at Worplesdon (above), near Woking. Whitgift has won the competition twice, in 1974 and 1999. The quest for a third title began against King Edward’s, Birmingham, the only side whom Whitgift had never faced in the main competition. Tony Mason’s side were soon ahead and in truth it was never a close contest, with all three matches being led comfortably from a fairly early stage. Martin Hayes and debutant Mark Haswell overcame their opponents 4&2; Roddy Sage & Alan Scovell won their match 6&5; and Tony Mason & Mark Chatham prevailed 3&2, in a 3-0 win.

The second round opponents were Blundells, who had won the competition the previous year and whom Whitgift had never beaten: they therefore represented stiffer competition. However, Tony had a secret weapon up his sleeve, with Neill Williams, newly over 50 and a +4 golfer, brought into the top pair for the Thursday. Partnering Martin Hayes in the top pair, Neill made a winning start to what will hopefully become a successful experience in the Cyril Gray, and Mason & Chatham also won in the third pair, giving Whitgift a 2-1 win in the morning. Similar success followed for Williams & Hayes in the afternoon’s third round, this time against familiar foes Watson’s, and this time it was the second pair of Haswell & Scovell who gave Whitgift the vital second point, with Mason & Chatham able to claim a half in the unfinished third match.

Word was now spreading that Whitgift had a strong pairing upfront, which gave Tony Mason a tactical dilemma, because a common strategy in such circumstances is for the opposition to ‘sacrifice’ a weaker pairing in the top match, whilst hoping to prevail in the other two matches. Tony also knew what his semi-final opponents, Rossall, did not – that Neill Williams was unavailable for the final day! So was this time for a bluff, or a double bluff?! In the end, he decided to put himself and Mark Chatham out first, and they played some of their best golf of the week. Nonetheless it was not good enough to carry the day, against a Rossall side who have strength in depth and who have reached the final five times in the last nine years (losing each one, as it happens). Tony & Mark succumbed on the 15th, whilst Alan Scovell & Roddy Sage lost 6&5 in the third match, again against a very strong pairing. Hayes & Haswell were 2 down after 13 but able to claim the half since the overall result was already determined.

So, overall a good week, and one that shows the potential for Whitgift to record another win in the near future, with other former Hewitt players joining Neill Williams in the over-50s category.

 

Scratch Cup entrants were scratching their heads when they turned up for this year’s event at Royal Cinque Ports GC, Deal. The temperature was above freezing, the wind was hardly blowing, it wasn’t raining – could this really be the Scratch Cup? Yes, the first to be held in benign conditions and eighteen players competing for the prize; and especially good to see some new candidates in the field – Aidan Millham, Matt Spriegel, Owen Richardson, Chris Jones and Paul Harrup.

Paul, in his own words ‘only there to make up the numbers’, caused an early stir. An 8-handicapper, he left the ninth green announcing that he was 2-under. ‘Against your handicap?’ came the response. No, two under par, gross, putting him in the lead at the halfway point. Also at the ninth, Paul’s playing partner Ian Hunter holed his 6-iron approach for an eagle two. Sadly, none of those in the halfway hut were paying attention, and neither Ian nor Paul saw it go in either. Eventually Paul suggested looking in the hole ‘for comedy value’!

The inward half at Deal is always the true test, although that is normally because of the prevailing wind, which wasn’t prevailing this time. Owen Richardson (pictured left with Dudley Thompson) coped best overall, and got back to the clubhouse with a gross 70 (two under par), winning the cup in front of Aidan Millham (72), Toby Kemp, Stuart Hollins and Matt Spriegel (all 73), and Richard Gibson (last year’s winner) (74). Martin Hayes won the Silver Medal as the leading player over 50 years of age (the Cyril Gray qualification); he registered 75, but this year he did at least have competition and wasn’t the only over-50 in the field! In normal circumstances it would be true to say that Martin’s is the only name on the Silver Medal, since he has won it in every year of its existence; however, it is not actually true, because Richard has never had the plaque engraved. Clearly he is looking to economise on the eventual cost!

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We held our Annual Dinner at a new venue, Tandridge GC, on Monday 20th March. It proved to be an enjoyable evening and a successful venue, with 24 attendees and two guests; Neil Kendrick summarised the current state of golf at the school and Archie Adlington received the Walker Cup from our President Pip Burley (pictured together, right) for his achievement in school golf. The award was particularly poignant this year, since Charlie Walker, who donated the cup to the society several years ago, sadly passed away during the year – John Gould spoke eloquently afterwards about his friend of many years.

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Also at the Dinner, Simon Beck encouraged more entries for the upcoming Gala Day golf and dinner on Friday 26th May, details of which can be found in the previous post (January/February report). He explained that the day is in aid of the school’s bursary fund, providing education at the school for boys who would otherwise not be able to afford the fees. The fund has not grown in recent years, meaning that, after inflation, the total number of bursaries provided has fallen. So this is a worthy cause and entries from members and guests will be greatly welcomed. Please join in!

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Six Whitgift pairs participated in the Peter Kenyon Bowl, a foursomes competition run by the Halford Hewitt committee, at Prince’s, Sandwich. Played over Prince’s Dunes and Himalayas courses, this was on the day before the Hewitt itself got under way. It was very windy, but essentially dry. The Whitgift winners on the day were David and Peter Hedges, with 31 points, who picked up the Thompson Tankards – the society’s only foursomes trophy.

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Halford Hewitt 2023 report

This one was different. Not so much in terms of the result, because Whitgift again went out relatively early in the competition, but the approach, the performance, and the mentality all demonstrated something new. This is a Whitgift team which can achieve something. It has a better balance in terms of age – there are players in their twenties, thirties and forties (ok, two were over 50, but they bring experience, and in Neill Williams’ case, a +4 handicap!) – and a good team spirit. Also note that there are another ten or so scratch or near scratch golfers, all of whom are young, who can play for us in the future, if only we can get them to make themselves available in Hewitt week. The future is bright.

This year’s first round opponents were Repton, a team ranked in the top-10 over the last five years, based on their performances. A tough draw. It became apparent quite early that their strongest players were all playing at the front, whereas Whitgift had even strength throughout, so Whitgift’s top two pairs (Gibson/Bailey and Hollins/Hayes) found the going tougher than pairs 3,4 and 5. Indeed, Whitgift’s third and fourth pairs (Raison/Sellers and Evans/Spriegel) won their matches not long after the first two had succumbed, leaving the tie equal at 2-2 with only Matt Webster and Toby Kemp to finish. A wild Repton drive on 15 brought that match back to all square, and then Matt Webster holed from eight feet on 17 to put Whitgift ahead. Repton were tidier around the 18th green and so took the match to extra holes – a test of nerve that Whitgift have struggled with over the past ten years or so. Toby Kemp took the long walk back to the 1st tee (the 19th), with the firm intention of hitting a drive as reliable as he had proved throughout the match, but it was not to be. It went wide, so wide that it collided with the clubhouse (out of bounds) guttering, with an almighty bang, and then bounced high on to the road – and from there back in bounds, greeted by cheers from the Whitgift contingent (see photos below). An outrageous piece of luck, and one which Whitgift consolidated after Repton left their approach to the green short of the water. Webster holed from seven feet for a par 4, beating Repton’s bogey 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epsom were the next opponents, and another top-10 side. Both teams knew each other well, especially those who are members at Walton Heath. The weather for day two was awful. Strong winds of 35mph and over, plus horizontal rain at times. Standing to spectate was an achievement in itself. Swinging a club smoothly, or trying to maintain composure whilst putting, was impossible, and was reflected in the scoring. Raison and Sellers won the 12th with a 7 to Epsom’s 8, both having lost a ball.

At the turn, there was nothing between the sides, all matches being within one hole. Thereafter, the overall lead appeared to change every five minutes, and it became apparent that this was going ‘to the wire’; extra holes were a possibility in all five matches, and clearly the side which held its nerve and conviction was likely to finish the winner. Williams/Gibson, Whitgift’s leading pair, set an example in this respect over the closing stretch. One down after 14 holes, they birdied each of the 15th, 16th and 17th, to win their match 2&1. Richard Gibson holed putts of 20ft and 30ft on the last two holes.

Further back, Harry Sellers and Jack Raison were 2 down after 11, but recovered to lead by one after 14. The pendulum swung yet again and the match was all square going down the last. Epsom drove into the long rough on the left of the 18th but recovered well, halving the hole in 4 after a 25ft putt down the slope. Extra holes beckoned, and Jack rose to the task with a great drive down the centre of the fairway, which Harry Sellers converted with a 120 yard wedge to within 2 feet of the hole (all this in 35mph winds, don’t forget). Brilliant, and a birdie which Epsom could not match. 2-0 to Whitgift and overall victory apparently within reach, as Hollins/Hayes (the next pair) had been reported as 2up after 13. But, after a fight back by Epsom, the match also appeared on the 18th tee all square, and although both sides were short of the green in two, Epsom edged the match as Whitgift, struggling with the gusting wind, took four from forty yards out. A similar misfortune befell both Webster/Kemp, who 3-putted 17,  and Evans/Spriegel who, already 1 down coming down the last, had to go for broke to square their match and found the stream.

So Whitgift lost 3-2, but it was close, very close, and remember that Epsom are a side which has won the Hewitt twice in recent years, and consistently gets to the latter stages. Typical then, but all the more encouraging, that Epsom should go on this time to reach the final, where they came up against Loretto, winners of the Hewitt in both 2021 and 2022. Loretto edged the final 3-2 to earn themselves a hat-trick of victories.  Congratulations to them.

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The last action of this report period took place at The Addington, designed in 1913 (the year when the OWGS was founded) by J.F. Abercromby. A great deal of work is being done by the current owners to return the course to something like its original condition. Certainly the views over London have been opened up and make for a splendid sight, especially when the sun is out. The course however is in transition, and probably was not at its best when we visited, with removal and construction work still in progress; and the awful April weather will not have helped either. There were only 13 starters for the competition, the Captain’s Cup, which was disappointing for a Sunday meeting, when there would normally have been the opportunity for some to play who work during the week, but we had not allowed for the fact that this was a bank holiday weekend and there were other priorities in the diary.

Or maybe the absentees knew the difficulties presented by The Addington! The scores reflected the problems faced, with the winning score being 31 points, achieved by Alan Scovell, the captain, who was awarded his own trophy by Pip Burley, our President (right). Alan narrowly defeated a triumvirate on 30 points, Mike Berners Price, David Absalom, and Adrian McMillan. Rather than try to separate them on countback, the Captain decided that they should all be presented with magnificent runners-up prizes, in the form of Fortnum & Mason biscuits! A tasteful end to a very enjoyable day.

The next open event is our Gala Charity Day on Friday 26th May.

 

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The society AGM will be held online on Monday, March 6th and the Annual Dinner will be held at Tandridge GC two weeks later, on Monday, March 20th.

Whitgift have been drawn in one of the tougher sections of the Halford Hewitt draw, made on Wednesday (11th January). A first round match against Repton beckons at Royal Cinque Ports GC, Deal, on Thursday 30th March at 8.20am. So another early start, the fourth year in succession that we have been in one of the first two matches out. There are some interesting ties elsewhere in the draw; Malvern take on Tonbridge; Merchiston and Watson’s clash in an Edinburgh derby; and Harrow face Epsom, the winners of which will hopefully come up against Whitgift in the second round.

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Details have been released, and entries invited, for a Gala Charity Golf Day on Friday 26th May, 2023, in aid of Whitgift for All, the school’s bursary fund. Details are provided below –

A Gala Charity Golf Day

Croham Hurst, May 26th, 2023

Followed by a Black-Tie Reception and Dinner in Big School

All Proceeds to the School’s ‘Whitgift for All’ Bursary Scheme

 

 

Inspired by the philosophy of its founder, John Whitgift, the School has launched an ambitious bursary programme to raise funds to enable a wider range of deserving pupils to enjoy a  Whitgift education. John Whitgift founded the School for the ‘poorer sorte’ in Croydon and – with the help of former pupils, staff and friends – the intention is to ensure that Whitgift remains a school for all in these difficult times.

The OW Golf Society will be supporting ‘Whitgift for All’ with a splendid Charity Golf Day at Croham Hurst, a local course with strong Whitgiftian connections. The day will begin with a full English breakfast at Croham Hurst, followed by 18 holes of social golf and prize-giving.  In the evening there will be a gala reception at the School with the best school dinner you’ll ever enjoy!  Plus, entertainment and an auction – a grand event in itself.

Supporting ‘Whitgift for All’ and open to all…

…This magnificent day is open to golfers of all standards, male and female, young and old – current and past pupils, parents, family members, current and ex-members of staff – as well as colleagues and friends. There will be prizes for individuals and teams, as well as ‘longest drive’, ‘beat the pro’ and ‘nearest the pin’.

Cost for the full day including golf will be £175 per person, or for dinner or golf only £95.  Tables of ten can be purchased for £1,650. As we are anticipating a heavy demand for this unique event, please book your places at the earliest opportunity.

For further details or to book your place contact:

 Pip Burley, at pip@philipburleyltd.co.uk  tel: 01372 363689, or Peter Gale at peterbgale@sky.com .

Alternatively, speak to Val Baxter at val@whitgift.co.uk tel: 020 8633 9922

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There is no news to report for the last two months of the year, other than to draw attention to the new calendar for 2023, which is now published under ‘Fixtures’.

There is a lot to look forward to. A major event is in the offing for May, when a charity gala day is planned in aid of Whitgift for All, the school’s bursary fund. There is golf to be played at nearby Croham Hurst, followed by a black tie dinner in Big School. Invitations have already started to go out, and members are encouraged to support the day in any way that they can.

Elsewhere, the fixture list has a familiar look, but with some new venues and the return of some old favourites. Open meetings are scheduled for The Addington, Royal Ashdown (Old Course), and Piltdown, amongst others, whilst the more elite golfers will look forward to the Scratch Cup (surely the sun must shine on this meeting this year!), as well as school team competitions such as the Halford Hewitt, Grafton Morrish and Cyril Gray. Meanwhile, society golfers of less elevated status should note that they are able to take part in the 64-school competition for the Peter Kenyon Bowl, held at Prince’s during Hewitt week. This is normally very good value, and as an additional carrot, even if a Whitgift pair is unable to lift the Peter Kenyon itself, this year the top Whitgift pair on the day will be awarded the Thompson Tankards, the society’s only foursomes trophy.

The AGM will be held online this year. Please note the date, 6th March, and try to attend; there is a good deal to discuss.

A Happy New Golfing Year to all concerned!

 

Well, that’s it for another year, folks. Another season ended, but plenty to look back on, on these news pages. Keep watching for developments over the next few months. A new fixture list will be on the way ……

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Matt Webster took a good cricket team, with debutants Laurie Evans (left) and Matt Spriegel joining experienced campaigner Richard Gibson and young thrusters Joe Carmody-Firth and Jack Raison up to North Norfolk to compete in the Grafton Morrish in early October. A practice round in testing winds on Thursday was followed up by a first round in near gale force winds on the slim slither of land between the Brancaster marshes and The Wash, at Royal West Norfolk GC. Our first round opponents Rugby were a team we knew well, having played many times before and annually in a Hewitt warm up for the past few years. Their number included a recent world top 50 amateur and a strong 6 overall. With a lot of creative golf being played, ultimately we were overcome in the top match (Joe and Jack) and, with some questionable fortune for the opposition, in match 2 (Matt W and Laurie). Gibson and Spriegel were looking to be on the right side of game 3, but per competition rules had to offer a half from a winning position on the 16th.

After some soul searching and a team bbq on the Friday evening (photo right) we refocused our efforts on Saturday in the Solihull Salver, the scratch stableford competition for the 32 schools in rounds 1&2. Still in testing winds, but thankfully not quite as strong, our pairs managed 28, 28 and 31 points – admirable in a windy scratch competition and good enough for 3rd place, narrowly behind winners Solihull, and Canford. The top 4 of the 32 schools qualified for the semi finals of the Committee Bowl, played up the coast at Hunstanton on the Sunday. In beautiful morning conditions, we squared up to Canford and with a big win for Evans and Spriegel, and a loss for Carmody-Firth and Raison, Gibson and Webster were playing last in the deciding match. After battling back from 3 down through 10, they were in prime position to move back to all square playing their approaches to the 15th green. A challenging par 5 into the wind, Whitgift’s 2nd shot (a driver off the deck) was heading towards the green only to bounce sharply right into a bunker. Canford’s 2nd went a long way left and short, into what their senior player described as ‘the real deep stuff’. It looked surely to be a lost ball. After nearly three minutes of searching in thigh-high rough and brambles one of the 10 searchers promptly stood on the ball. A penalty drop back in line left 150 yards for their 4th shot, which sailed long and right down a slope and off the green, some 80 feet away. The Whitgift ball had not fared well after the horrendous bounce and was under the 6 foot lip of a revetted face. Gibson sensibly came out sideways leaving a 100 foot putt. Long story short, we took 3 to get down from there and Canford holed from off the green to snatch the hole, effectively a two hole swing in their favour. 16 was halved in pars and 17 also halved to give Canford the deciding point. A tragic tale we have all seen before but a wonderful week of  quality golf from 6 Old Whitgiftians playing their hearts out. Onward to the Hewitt in April.

Canford went on to win the Committee Bowl in the afternoon.

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The OWGS autumn tour has become an established feature in our calendar. This year we ventured to new surroundings, otherwise known as Birmingham. Not that you would have known it, surrounded as we were by green spaces (Sutton Park), expensive houses, and several good golf courses. And, by and large, the sun shone.

We started at Sutton Coldfield GC, a lovely heathland course ranked in the Top 100 in the country, set in the middle of a national nature reserve. 17 starters pitted their wits against a course in good condition and on greens that are rated as close to tour pace.  Jeremy Stanyard tussled with Alan Scovell (left) for top marks, eventually prevailing on countback, with both scoring 41 points. Little Aston was the venue for the next day’s play, a very highly ranked parkland course in a glorious setting. Three of our number were so overcome at the beauty of it all that, instead of rounding off their day on the 18th, they decided to play the 2nd all over again. Nobody noticed. In doing so, those three missed playing over, or around, or through, a bunker that completely spanned the 18th fairway, one of a number of such hazards which, to be honest, were a little surplus to requirements.  It was sufficient of a challenge without those. George Cook took the day’s playing honours with a great round. On the last day, we played next to our hotel, at Moor Hall GC, a more modest course, but with a brutal final five holes, four of which were well over 400 yards in length, and all par 4s.  Not satisfied with his first day triumph, Jeremy Stanyard came out on top again, and in so doing, brushed aside any remaining opposition for the overall tour title.

Several other prizes were awarded as well, not all of them for golf, and even those awarded for the golf were not all in recognition of success. But, with the caveat that ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’, it can be disclosed that Brodies won the house competition but narrowly missed out on the Award for Sartorial Elegance (photo top right), blessed as they were with Messrs Stanyard and Gould, and Tony Mason hit the longest drive (right).

The whole party would, it is certain, join in thanking the organisers John Gould, Tony Mason and finally spreadsheet and prizes maestro Alan Scovell, who would have left even Philip Hammond for dust.

 

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It poured when we arrived. A number of us said ‘not for me today, thank you’. Then it paused long enough to tempt us out on the course after all. Then it poured even harder. It was the Autumn Cup day, and it was autumn.

Royal Ashdown Forest (West Course) was the venue; not a long course, but challenging for all that, with narrow fairways between trees that had not been chopped down (see below), a few meandering streams across the course (some appearing for one day only ), and the odd bit of heather, just in case you had missed everything else. The rain added a new dimension to the putting conundrum; no longer a matter simply of pace and line, now it became a matter of judging how deep the water was that you were putting through. Howard Beeston was seen to measure the depth on at least one occasion, and it appears to have worked for him; his 32 points was enough to win the Autumn Cup (photo left) , in front of Martin Down and Mike Berners Price, both on 30.

Only nine players out of 18 starters managed to complete the full 18 holes; two did not actually start at all, three called it a day after four holes and another four after nine. The clubhouse looked increasingly attractive, the further away from it you travelled. And the lunch following the golf was very welcome, and very good.

We welcomed back, after a fourteen year break, Chris Jones, who has been in Singapore for all that time, and for his first meeting with us, Rory McKinnon, who had his own ‘Jean van de Velde moment’ on the 18th (right). Fortunately for Rory, it did not cost him The Open.

Thank you to Mike Spanswick for organising it all.

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The Hornsey-Walker Cup meeting was held at The Addington in early September. The trophy is the oldest in the society, having been presented first in 1927, so it is an important meeting and there was an appropriately good turnout of 29 players, which included, for the first time in recent memory, four of the school’s Halford Hewitt squad. It was good to see them and a separate scratch prize was awarded as a result.

The Addington itself was unrecognizable to anyone who last visited more than two years ago. The club is trying to recreate the course as it was originally designed and, partly as a result, hundreds, or more likely thousands, of trees have been removed between the fairways. The King George III memorial, previously hidden somewhere to the left of the 8th fairway, is now visible from the clubhouse, and the views from the top of the course have taken on a panoramic perspective! The course itself has plenty of ground under repair where tree work has been done and new heather is being planted, but the fairways appeared less unpredictable than on previous visits, and the greens very much sharper. A few unfortunate OWs reported putting off the green; they were that quick.

In the circumstances, the general level of scoring was quite good, and there is always something curiously satisfying when the winning nett score is level par. So it proved, and Andrew Winterbotham (left, with captain Jeremy Stanyard), a relatively new member and someone who has worked hard to get his handicap down, took the Hornsey-Walker home with him, having scored 36 points. He was hotly pursued by two more experienced golfers, David Absalom (36 points but worse on countback) and Nigel Huxtable (35 pts). Richard Gibson, captain of the Hewitt team and playing off +3, won the scratch prize with a gross 69 (level par). Nine other players reached 30 points or better.

The match vs Croham Hurst in August was cancelled, due to the greens being treated shortly before the scheduled date and therefore considered unsuitable for play.

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Mid – July and, despite a handful of Covid-enforced withdrawals in the days leading up to the fixture, there was a good turnout for the President’s Meeting. Hever Castle was the venue and the fairways were looking very parched after a long dry spell. Most participants were pleased there was a little breeze to give relief from the heat, and set off to win one of two cups on offer; the Veterans’ Cup meeting in June had been postponed (because of the heat) and was contested from Hever’s green tees (6023 yards) alongside the President’s Putter off the yellows (6502 yards).

Certainly this is one of the longest courses we play on; the 17th alone measures 618 yards off the yellows and, despite the extra length the dry fairways gave even the more modest golfer, most members found it a challenge to reach the green in the regulation three shots. Not Martin Hayes. Relatively fresh from completing his 100 matches in the Halford Hewitt, he produced one of the best rounds the society has seen in its open competitions, with 42 stableford points off a playing handicap of 4 – a gross 70, including a birdie 4 on that 618-yard 17th. Just tell me it was a single putt, Martin, please. Martin won the President’s Prize (he is seen, left, receiving the prize from OWGS President, Pip Burley) by 7 points from Mike Berners Price (35 points) and Jeremy Stanyard (34). (Mind you, Mike had himself burned up Tandridge that very morning, scoring 43 points, before rushing over to Hever!).

The Veterans’ Cup also saw some very good scores. Jerry Hamley won the Cup with 38 points, and Roddy Sage came second with 35, beating David Hedges on countback.

It was a pleasure to have three Hewitt centurions join us for this meeting (Peter Hedges, David Hedges and Martin Hayes). Almost certainly, a first. The meeting was expertly managed by John Gould, who overcame a number of challenges along the way, not least when the secretary (accidentally) pocketed his mobile phone before leaving the golf club. Apologies and thanks, several times over, John!