With the season now well and truly underway everyone was looking forward to some serious competition in the weeks ahead. Malcolm Rosborough kicked things off by narrowly beating Vice-Captain James O’Sullivan in the June Midweek Medal. Peter Philips added his name to the list of this seasons winners by claiming the Monthly Medal a few days later. It was a close call but he just managed to edge out Paul Gregory and Gerry Smith by the smallest of margins. The June Monthly Medal is always a qualifier for the singles Match-play finals and this year those lucky qualifiers would be Vice-Captain James O’Sullivan, Brian Stenson, John Dixon and Club Captain Graham Jackson.
The weather that greeted the Match-play finalists was a little mixed. A warm blustery breeze was blowing in from the south and it would certainly test the competitors during their rounds. First onto the tee would be the Captain v Vice-Captain. With little to separate them in handicap it promised to be a close match. Perhaps O’Sullivan, who had previously won the Championship in 2015 had the slight advantage even though Club Captain Graham was in good form. The match remained tight, as expected, right to the bitter end with James just hanging on at the 18th. In the second semi-final John Dixon, winner in 2014, took on his close friend Brian Stenson. Both players had joined forces earlier in April to win the Pairs Match-play Championship against James O’Sullivan and John Procter, but now the stakes were a little different. The early exchanges went to Stenson but Dixon is a seasoned veteran when it comes to match-play and his experienced began to tell. After taking the lead on the 10th he played commanding golf and subsequently booked his place in the final on the 15th hole. The final was an intriguing one, two past champions vying to become the first double Singles Match-play Champion in the Club’s history. O’Sullivan had been showing much consistency in his play throughout the season and so it was little surprise to see him take a lead over the opening holes. Playing two matches in one day, on a long undulating course, can easily take its tole and both players found the going difficult at times. Dixon managed to level the match on the 8th and took a 1-up lead into the back nine. He had chances to move further ahead but O’Sullivan was battling hard and refused to give up. Standing on the seventeenth tee Dixon still held his 1-up advantage and both players nerves were being tested to the full. The slightest mistake now would prove fatal. In the end it was the solid play of Dixon, rather than an error from his opponent, that sealed the victory. After being on the green in two he calmly rolled his ball up to the hole for a cast iron four, that was just too good for O’Sullivan to match. The victory meant that Dixon had achieved the double of both Singles and Pairs Match-play Championships in the same season. There’s no denying that John Dixon is the king of Match-play!
After the excitement of the Singles Final everyone’s focus turned towards the Ash Valley Open at the end of month. Keith Harding managed to win the Midweek Stableford with John Hawkins back in second place. Dave White produced his best performance of the year so far in the third round of the Stableford Cup, and took the day with 41points with Alan Best four points back in second. The Open always attracts a good field and this year was no exception. Once again there was a strong wind to great the players as they arrived at the Club. It was certainly a day for steady, rather than spectacular play. The early scores certainly indicated that the conditions were tough and anyone managing to accumulate 30+ points would find themselves well up the leaderboard. The first player to return a really decent score was 2015 Open Champion Mark Dowling with 38. It wasn’t until James O’Sullivan, always a contender, matched it with a 38 of his own that things became interesting. Malcolm Rosborough, playing late in the day, tried valiantly but his total of 35 points fell well short of the two leaders. It was going to come down to a count-back and by virtue of a better inward half the Open Champion for 2017 was Mark Dowling for the second time. It was yet another near miss for O’Sullivan, who has been in contention in just about every major competition held this season. It’s surely just a matter of time before he claims yet another top award.
Don’t forget that it’s Captain/Club Day at the end of July. The entry sheet is on the main noticeboard. Well done to everyone for supporting the competitions. There’s still much to play for so keep on entering!