March/April 2022 report

Martin Hayes is presented with the Silver Salver after playing 100 matches in the Halford Hewitt

Halford Hewitt 2022 report.

The weather for the first round of the Halford Hewitt (played on 7th April) was just a windy as it had been for the Scratch Cup, see below, albeit that the ambient temperature was a little higher. The Whitgift team was missing Neill Williams, a stalwart in recent years, and also team captain Richard Gibson, but it was good to see Laurie Evans playing his first Hewitt, and not his last, if the enthusiasm with which he went about the task is anything to go by. Indeed, deputy captain Matt Webster was inspired to send Laurie out in the lead pair alongside Harry Sellers, who had only the 2021 Hewitt behind him. The two of them responded magnificently, winning the first five holes of their match against Downside, and the rest of the team followed their example. Downside had proved resilient opponents in 2018, fighting back to win in that first round match, but this year never looked likely to be a repeat. None of the first four matches to finish was closer than a 5&4 win, and the fifth match was scored as a half once the overall match was determined, but Whitgift were ahead in that one as well, 2up with four to play. So Whitgift comfortably secured a milestone victory and became the 21st school out of the 64 which compete to claim a 100th win in the Hewitt (which we first contested in 1935).

The second round against Watson’s was never likely to be as one-sided. Watson’s have won the Hewitt six times and have scored three wins out of 3 in matches against Whitgift, so they were undoubtedly favourites. Nonetheless there was a sense that Whitgift might spring a surprise, and indeed each of the five matches was very closely contested, with neither side gaining a significant lead in any of them at any stage. With the match always likely to be tight, there were plenty of nerves on display, and the relaxed golf played on the previous day was a distant memory. The nerves were on both sides, however, and not least when Watson’s second pair, playing the short 8th, managed to putt, yes, putt into a greenside bunker and still win the hole with a bogey four. Also on the 8th, a Watson’s player in the third pair missed a short putt to win the hole and instinctively reached past the hole to claw back the ball, without waiting for it to be conceded for the half. Understandable frustration maybe, but he was lucky that Whitgift conceded the half anyway; other schools may not have done. Happily, neither of the events on the 8th proved decisive, with Whitgift ending up winners of both matches, 2&1 and 3&2 respectively.

There was always the feeling that the lead match might prove pivotal. Again it was Harry Sellers and Laurie Evans, fresh from a 7&6 victory on the Thursday, in Whitgift’s lead pair, and it was refreshing to see how positively they responded to the challenge of playing against vastly more experienced, but still young, opponents, one of them a professional at an earlier stage. Whitgift birdied the first and never fell further than two holes behind. Indeed at the 15th, they managed to claw the match back to all square, and when Laurie hit a 250-yard 3-iron to the edge of the 16th green, with his opponent in trouble on the left, it looked likely that Whitgift could edge ahead. However, Watson’s responded with a vengeance. Their thirty yard wedge from the left rough finished within 3 feet of the hole, securing a birdie, which Laurie just failed to match from 10 feet. Then Watson’s repeated the feat at the par 4 17th, pitching dead for another birdie, while Whitgift could not match them from 15 feet away. This was high quality golf; Whitgift were still level par for their round, and lost. But overall, Whitgift were still well in the hunt, because the fourth pair, Matt Webster and Harvey Byers, came to the 17th one-up and close to that decisive third win. However the lead slipped away when Watson’s parred the hole and Matt’s par putt from twelve feet somehow lipped out when it appeared for all the world to have dropped. That seemed to give Watson’s, who had never led in the match but were now level, the momentum they needed. The 18th was halved in par 4s almost at the same time as Watson’s closed out a 2&1 win in the final pair, meaning that the entire match depended on the extra 19th hole. Both pairs found the green in regulation but Whitgift’s nervy 3-putt from 20 feet or so meant, sadly, that it was Watson’s who progressed.

There was frustration at the result but both sides were able to celebrate back in the clubhouse, because Martin Hayes – and, coincidentally, his opponent on the day from Watson’s – were both playing in their 100th Hewitt match. So they both were presented by the Hewitt President with the Silver Salvers that record the name of all Hewitt ‘centurions’. Martin is shown above being presented with the Salver. Well done, Martin – a fantastic achievement, matched only by four other Whitgiftians (Gordon Garment, David Hedges, Peter Hedges, and Andrew Stracey).


Then, and now. A photo of the first ever Whitgift team to enter the Halford Hewitt in 1935 was discovered in one of the old albums kept at Deal (too late for ‘It’s a Long Game‘, unfortunately!), and is shown below with a contrasting one of the 2022 team at a pre-competition dinner at Royal St George’s. Times change!


Hewitt week traditionally starts with the Peter Kenyon Bowl, also a foursomes competition, but designed to include potential supporters of the Hewitt schools as well as those playing in the Hewitt; hence handicaps are permitted. It is a competition that has been won by Whitgift pairs on a few occasions in the past, but this year is not going to be another. Four Whitgift pairs took part, in extremely blustery conditions, and while Mark Chatham and Paul Smeaton emerged with the best Whitgift score, it was not enough to be the best on the day, let alone over the two days of the competition. What was however encouraging was the number of participants; far greater than in recent years, so the move from the more distant Littlestone to Princes appears to be proving a popular one.

The AGM and annual dinner for the OWGS were held at the Whitgift Sports Club on Monday 21st March, and Society Captain Jeremy Stanyard (seen below (right) presenting the Challenge Cup to John Butler for his victory in the postponed 2020 knockout competition) presented his report on the year.

Despite the impact of Covid, the vast majority of the society’s events had been successfully held. There had been wins in the open events for Don Anderson, Simon Beck, Paul Smeaton (and for the Captain), in the two Scratch Cups for Neill Williams and Richard Gibson respectively (see above), and in the Autumn Tour for John Grima. The knockout for 2020 had been completed on the Tour, and that for 2021 had been won by Ian Chicken, who beat Simon Beck (after a replay!).

The society’s new strategy had been implemented, and there were promising signs of more engagement amongst younger members. The website was up and running, with links to social media platforms. Progress in the 2021 major competitions had been disappointing, with early defeats in all of them for our teams. The Captain also noted the feats during the year of OW Riccardo Fantinelli who, amongst other excellent performances, had reached the final of the British Boys’ Championship at Deal, before losing on the 37th hole.

During the dinner, the Walker Cup, awarded each year to a schoolboy for achievement in golf, was presented by Charlie Walker to Charlie Pring, the School’s Captain of Golf, and we heard from Neil Kendrick, who gave us an update on the progress of the school’s golf programme.


My goodness, that was cold! The weather is, it seems, always a factor in the Scratch Cup, and the fifth edition of that tournament was no exception, played at Royal Cinque Ports on Sunday 6th March. The sun came out at intervals, but that could not possibly offset the chilling effect of a 40-50 mph easterly wind coming straight off the sea. A three-club wind, some said, and from a different direction to the one most Deal die-hards are used to; it was not for the faint-hearted. The general view prior to the start was that 80 would be a good score in the conditions and it was agreed that the competition would be played as a stableford, rather than a medal, at least to allow players to move on rather than search for the inevitable lost balls.

There was no Neill Williams in the entry this year so,  Neill having won the first four Scratch Cups, a new name would be on the trophy; a field of 14, reduced in size by inexplicable absences on golf tours, holiday, Covid and even, in one case, a planned recovery from a hangover, took to the tee with added optimism. It was good to welcome three new members in the society, Oscar Bailey, Laurie Evans and Ian Hunter, all of whom are in the photo above (l to r; Harry Sellers, Oscar Bailey, Laurie Evans, James Beck, Jack Raison, and Ian Hunter, on the first tee).

Richard Gibson receives the Cup from former President Dudley Thompson

Martin Hayes putts on the 4th hole

The strength of the wind made it difficult for players to reach the greens in regulation, which in turn put pressure on their short games. Plus, several players commented on how difficult the greens were to putt on, once they were on them. Also difficult to reach, but well worth the effort, was the halfway hut. Many a cup of hot bovril and sherry was consumed in order to fortify the spirit for the back nine. With the homeward journey also plagued by the cross wind, the scores on the back nine were little different, overall, to those on the front, but without exception, everyone was happy to reach the sanctuary of the clubhouse, not least your correspondent.

The early estimates of the winning score were not far off. Only one player managed to achieve a score better than 28 (the stableford equivalent of a gross 80), and that was Hewitt captain Richard Gibson, who scored a very creditable 31 points (gross 77). Second was Laurie Evans, still recovering from his winning exertions in Australia’s Big Bash final, with 26 points, followed by Jonny Ufton and Nic Gates, both with 24. These four earned the right to the automatic places in the 2022 Halford Hewitt team. Martin Hayes won the Silver Medal, for entrants over the age of 50, for the fourth time. Congratulations to them, and to everyone else for turning up on an enjoyable, but very tough, day.