Dowling on the Mark to claim Match Play Championship
The second month of the summer season began with Chris Morris claiming victory in the Midweek Medal with a very competent performance that left Malcolm Rosborough and Ken Chapman both trailing a couple of shot back in second place. Everyone was delighted to see Brian Purton return to winning ways after his score in the Monthly Medal left Graham Jackson and Peter Phillips picking up the scraps one shot back. Graham did however continue his good, if unspectacular form, into the Midweek Stableford, where he secured the top spot by a couple of points just ahead of Ken Chapman. There was an excellent turn out for the Monthly Stableford and overall the scoring was very good. Peter Riddle went home the most satisfied after holding off a late challenge from Bob Rawlinson who fell just one point shy. Both players added their names to the list of members that have qualified for this year’s Club Championship together with Ian Clibbon and Graham Jackson. At the end of the month members enjoyed another chance to play Texas Scramble. By the close of play three teams sat atop the leaderboard, all tied on 73. After the count back checks had been made the final result read – 3rd place Julian Arikans, Bob Rawlinson, Bill Benton – Runners-up – Alan Best, Dave White, John Procter – Winners – Mark Forster, Mark Dowling, Graham Jackson.
As June approach all attention focused squarely on the Singles Match Play qualifying medal. There was a good entry all hoping to secure one of the four qualifying spots available. Defending Match play Champion Karl Brown made his intensions clear by returning the best score of the day (68) easily qualifying together with Club Captain John Dixon, Mark Forster and Mark Dowling. The four players would meet the following week to contend for the crown. Before that though Mick Saterlay narrowly defeated Steve Monks on count back to win the Midweek Medal after both players had returned scores of 73. On the morning of the Match Play Finals a strong breeze and light rain greeted the players. Captain John opened proceedings with a long straight drive off the first in his match against Mark Forster, following on behind were Karl Brown and Mark Dowling in the second of the semi-finals. Both matches were nip ‘n tuck in the early stages. Mark Forster’s steady play started to pay off just before the turn and he soon established a commanding five hole lead after the 11th which prompted an early concession of the match by John on the next hole. The second semi-final was an all together closer affair. Both players were showing signs of good and indifferent play typical of match play. Sadly for Karl the dream of defending his title ended on the 17th after Mark closed out the game 2&1 on the 17th .
After a well deserved lunch the two finalists set off once again into the gloomy weather to fight to the end. Each knew the others game inside out and so it was no surprise that the early exchanges kept the match finally poised. It was Mark Forster who took hold of the match after winning a scrappy 12th hole to go 3up. He certainly looked the more assured of the two after his driving iron tee shot off the 13th was smashed straight up the middle of the fairway. It looked odds on that the match would end sooner rather than later. But then, after his opponent had made a couple of errors around the green it was Mark Dowling that found himself with a six foot putt to win the hole. Standing on the 14th tee with the honour , and now just two down, he watched as his ball caught the right to left wind and finished just short of the left hand bunker but in the rough. Mark followed with a similar shot but stayed on the short grass. I have to say that from a difficult lie Mark played a wonderful pitch that helped him reduce the deficit further to just one down. In the space of two holes the momentum of the match had swung completely and it was anyone’s guess as to who the victor would be. Both players found the rough off the tee on the 15th. Mark Forster’s lie was the worse of the two and after both players had played their seconds he was still in trouble 180 yards away. Then I witnessed a truly awesome shot that saw the ball land just short of the green when it seemed there was little hope of advancing the ball more than fifty yards! Both players were doing everything they could to win. The 15th hole was won with a deft little chip that finished just below the hole. It was exciting to watch the two friends battle the way they were. Nothing was given or asked for. The tee shots off the 16th were indicative of the state of the match and maybe the player’s minds. Dowling split the fairway and Forster pulled an indifferent drive into the long grass on the left. After a good recovery, which put some pressure back on to his opponent, he under hit his approach and stumbled to the 17th tee an improbable one down. Both players were feeling the pressure now for different reasons and as a result the hole was untidy. On the green Forster still had an outside chance of extending the match, even after what looked like an excellent approach cruelly finished under the lip of the bunker. His must make 12’ putt just came up short leaving Dowling with a simple 2’ tap in to win the match. No one could deny that it was a fantastic comeback and to win five consecutive holes is what champions are made of. It was hard luck on the part of the runner-up who had played some great golf only to lose in the most dramatic fashion. It was a privileged to watch the match unfold.
Ken Chapman played too well for the rest of the entrants and won the Midweek Stableford by a couple of points from Mick Saterlay. Past Captain James O’Sullivan returned the winning score in the Monthly Stableford and as a result jumped to the top of the Stableford Cup Standings just ahead of Samuel Knight and Bob Rawlinson. The first half of the summer season ended with the highly coveted AV Open. The course looked in magnificent condition and with the temperature set to rise into the low thirties by the afternoon everyone was glad of the early start. As usual there was a good entry. Last year’s champion Ian Clibbon was obviously taking the defence of his title seriously after being spotted, out on the course practicing the night before! Proceedings began with Malcolm Rosborough striking the first ball in his usual customly fashion straight down the middle. Soon all the competitors were out on the course. They all welcomed the extra run the fairways provided but many crumbled on the slick putting surfaces, which were as fast as anyone could remember. There were many stories of heroic shots but one sensed that the winner would be quietly just picking up points and playing the most consistent golf. Juan Andres Vidal was the first player to return a potential winning score. His 35 points under the conditions was a fine effort and for much of the day remained on top of the leaderboard. In the end he had to settle for the runners-up spot and shake hands with last season’s “Golfer of the Year” Peter Phillips. Despite some excellent front nine scores most of the field succumbed to the elements on the closing holes. It had been a tough day and even Peter, maybe feeling the pressure a little, doubled the last and may have thought his chance had gone. Luckily it didn’t matter and his 37 points proved too hot to handle for the later starters. It was another wonderful achievement for Peter and his first Open title.
As a result of his Open success Peter now holds a slender lead as he tries to retain his Order of Merit crown. Juan Andres Vidal leads the way in this year’s Eclectic Competition and James O’Sullivan heads into the second half of the season with a narrow advantage in the Stableford Cup. Remember there is still lots to enter and enjoy. The July Medal will be a fundraiser for the Blind Golfers Charity with the winner receiving a four-ball voucher worth £200 and the following week we have our Annual Air Ambulance Charity Day which this year is a pairs event.