July/August 2021 report
August ended with the sad news that Gordon Garment had passed away, aged 89.
Robert (‘Bobby’) Gordon Garment was well-known and highly respected, especially by those who played alongside him or for him in the Halford Hewitt. He was a force of nature, someone who came almost to personify the efforts of Whitgiftians in the Halford Hewitt, and later the Cyril Gray, in the latter half of the twentieth century.
A successful chartered accountant, and once president of the OWA, he was one of the most amusing after-dinner speakers that you could hope to hear. But it was his golfing achievements that stand out, in particular for our society. He first played for Whitgift in the Halford Hewitt in 1950 and went on to play in every single year until 1999, an unbroken record of 50 years, clearly something quite extraordinary. He played over 100 matches in the competition, including the 1976 final in which he came within an inch of taking Merchiston into extra holes in the deciding match. He was captain of our Hewitt side on four separate occasions, including the other final in which the society has played, in 2002. He played another 47 matches for us in the Cyril Gray, itself a record number for an OW, and was deservedly a member of the side which won that competition in 1999.
Elsewhere, he was Captain at Royal Lytham & St Annes GC, an honour that he was appointed to on two separate occasions, another rarity.
His last appearance at one of our events was in 2019, when he attended our AGM and annual dinner, and received the Society’s Outstanding Achievement Award (picture right, with Gordon on the left alongside Andrew Stracey).
Late August brought no improvement in the weather but it did herald some impressive performances by a couple of young OWs. First, Riccardo Fantinelli reached the 36-hole final of the British Boys’ Championship at Royal Cinque Ports, where he was 2up with just three to play. Unfortunately he was pegged back on the very last hole, where his opponent sank a 15 foot birdie putt which barely reached the hole before dropping in. Riccardo lost at the first extra hole, but impressed those watching with his performance and demeanour, both on and off the course. A week later he found himself alongside another OW, Harvey Byers, in the Brabazon Trophy, essentially the major English amateur strokeplay event of the year. Both of them had great weeks; Harvey finishing in a tie for seventh, having led the field at one stage, with Riccardo only one shot behind him in eleventh. All of which augurs well for our Halford Hewitt side in future years.
August started with some very dubious weather, and the Scratch Cup, essentially a trial for the Halford Hewitt team, suffered from some of the heavy rain that had marred the end of July. The Scratch Cup, now in its fourth year, is renowned for being played in testing conditions but that is because it is normally played in February. This year’s event was held in August because the Hewitt itself has been postponed from its normal April date to early September, due to the Covid restrictions earlier in the year. However we were still at Royal Cinque Ports GC, Deal. Sadly the field for the event was cut by four withdrawals, all for sensible reasons, so only twelve took to the course. The heavy rain fell towards the end of the outward nine, and all those who reached the turn took shelter, as well as some sustenance, in the halfway hut! Whilst the rain washed away the chances of some, the resulting soft greens and the absence of much wind offered birdie chances on several of the outgoing holes, and three-time winner of the event, Neill Williams, took full advantage. He scored five birdies in those nine holes, and it could have been more (birdie opportunities from short distances on the 1st and 6th holes slipped by). Richard Gibson, now Captain of the Hewitt side, and fresh from his win in the Royal St George’s club championship (see below) was himself two under at the turn, and Stuart Hollins was level par.
The inward half at Deal is often the more difficult to play; not only is it slightly longer, but it is often into the prevailing wind. So it proved for the leaders, with Neill dropping his only shot to par on the 10th, and finishing four under, a gross 68, to win the Scratch Cup for the fourth year (pictured right, receiving the cup from Jeremy Stanyard). Congratulations, Neill, on a great round. Richard was level par on the back nine and finished two under, whilst Stuart finished two over. The rest of the field were some distance behind, but Toby Kemp, runner up in 2020, did well to finish fourth and claim the last of the automatic places in the Hewitt side. Watch this space to learn who Richard picks for the rest of the Hewitt team.
Only a couple of days after the Scratch Cup, we were at Woodcote Park for the President’s Meeting, with Pip Burley in the second year of his presidency. It was a good day; Woodcote was in very good condition, we managed to avoid whatever rain there was, and we were pleased to welcome four guests, as well as a new member, Paul Smeaton. Playing with the Captain, Jeremy Stanyard, and fellow Wildernesse member Mark Chatham, Paul was in a position to win the overall event, but took four to get down from a shortish distance at the last and thereby allowed Jeremy to slip past him as the winner. Both of them scored a very commendable 37 points, but Jeremy took the President’s Prize – and the President’s Putter – on countback. (Jeremy is shown (right) receiving the prize from Pip Burley.) John Butler finished third with 35 points. Good scoring. John Grima’s guest Kevin Canning won the guest prize with an even more impressive 39 points, and he also won the ‘nearest the pin’ prize on Woodcote’s 13th hole. Many thanks to John Gould for organising an enjoyable day.
Good news with the Halford Hewitt less than two months away. Matt Webster reports that Richard Gibson (pictured driving, left) won the Club Championship at Royal St George’s on Saturday 24 July by three shots. Played off the same tees and with similar flag positions to the final Sunday of the Open, Richard covered the front nine in 33. Well done, Richard.
A day earlier, a field of 16 took to Royal Cinque Ports GC, just down the road from RSG, to contest the Thompson Tankards foursomes trophy in the morning and the Hornsey-Walker Cup, the society’s oldest and most prestigious handicap trophy, in the afternoon (photo left).
Foursomes has not been contested in the society’s open meetings for 21 years, so this was a bit of a departure, but a welcome one. The competition was full of incident, not least when Simon Halliday, playing as a guest, drove into a bunker. Nothing unusual about that, you might think, except that it was his buggy that he drove into the bunker, on the 3rd hole (photo right), and it proved difficult, and messy, to extract it. Still, the main thing is that Simon was not hurt and completed both rounds in the day. There was a tight tussle at the top of the leaderboard, with Alan Scovell and David Absalom eventually taking the tankard (only one of the two Thompson Tankards has been located so far) with 33 points, one ahead of Sue Beck and James Beck.
The wind grew stronger thoughout the day and scoring was difficult in the afternoon; a number of players suffered in rough that was at least as thick as that at Sandwich for the Open, with fairways scarcely as wide. It was predicted early on that a score 0f 30 points would be good in the conditions and so it proved. Simon Beck and his better half Sue, playing as a guest, both scored 30, although Simon handed the cards in with a resigned shrug of the shoulders, not expecting that they would be top. Sue would have had the better of any countback decision, but Simon was declared the winner as only members can win the society’s trophies. Still, the Cup will decorate the same family sideboard and the engraving on the trophy may well be the same, regardless! And it should be noted that both Becks handed their prize money back into the society’s Centenary charity, Variety Golf. Thank you. Captain Jeremy Stanyard suffered a 2-shot handicap cut because of his win in the recent Veterans’ Cup, and finished one adrift of the Becks with 29 points, the same score as Mark Chatham, who took third place on countback. Jeremy’s wife Jane kindly hosted a buffet dinner in the evening, at the Stanyard’s Deal home, to round off a splendid day.
The match against KCS was held for the first time at Croham Hurst in early July; hitherto only Royal Wimbledon had been used as a venue for the fixture. Being on home turf clearly suited the Society, which came out 3-1 winners; only the third win in twelve outings. Tony Harris and Croham Captain Alan Longhurst led the charge, and claim to have finished at only four over par (better ball) for their round. So Whitgift hold the match trophy, the Chris Edge Salver (photo, above), at least until next year!