September/October 2022 report
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 ……
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.
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.
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.
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.