Golf finally returns after COVID-19 Lockdown
On Wednesday 13th May 2020, the Right Honourable Prime Minister (Big Bad Boris) finally allowed golf courses to open after what seemed an eternity. To say we were flooded with golfers is an understatement of biblical proportions. The course was rammed with smiling golfers and it appeared some sort of normality had returned.
Custom dictates the outgoing Captain puts out on the 18th green and the incoming Captain “Drives in” off the first tee with a club “selected” by the Committee. This year was no exception apart from the fact it was done socially distanced with no cheering gallery to observe. The outgoing Captain John Dixon was thanked for his tenure as Captain by all on the WhatsApp group. New Captain Alan Smith was then filmed driving off the first tee with a Hickory driver donated by the club secretary.
Due to Covid restrictions, the only competitive golf allowed was Match Play format. Traditionally the club Match Play if battled out by the top four qualifiers from the June monthly medal. However as we were in unprecedented times, the Committee decided to throw the competition out to all members. WHAT A RESPONSE!!! No less than 35 members entered. As the Committee had now taken over the competitions from the previous organiser Steve Barker, a decision was made to draw all major events.
The draw was executed by the members on the WhatsApp group and seemed to take “forever” to complete. Some tasty ties were drawn from the hat which included defending champion Mark Dowling first out against a new member Fred Tyne. Mark would fall at the first hurdle in defence of his crown. Another pairing matched two big hitting players in Karl Brown and Tony Gallery. Tony triumphed on the final green after what was described later as an epic battle that would have done the Ryder Cup proud.
Over the following month the matches were fought out on the course and we eventually ended up with four semi-finalists. The draw saw two good friends in one semi, Lee lines and Matt Squires who would lock horns in a real battle for the first time. Lee took the honours late on in the match to reach his first singles final. The other semi pitted two older “war horses” together in Steve Monks and James O’Sullivan. After trading holes with regularity, the game came down to the last two holes. James luckily pinched the game 2 up on the 18th after Steve unluckily put his second shot out of bounds.
The third place play off between Matt and Steve the following Saturday was a tight affair again coming to the final hole where Matt squeezed a 1 up victory to claim third spot. The final was not so close. A determined Lee lost the first hole to a birdie but quickly battled back to parity on the second. Lee played a solid round against a more erratic opponent who eventually conceded defeat on the 16th green. Lee had won his first club individual title and was a worthy winne.
England golf announced all formats of competition golf can now take place. The Committee rallied around and rapidly revised the fixture list to ensure all the club’s “Major” competitions were fulfilled.
1st July 2020 – ACE#1
During a social round, one of the members – Fred Tyne, recorded a hole-in-one on the par 3 14th. OUTSTANDING SHOOTING FRED
The proof is in the pudding. Well done Fred.
The season kicked off with the July midweek Stableford. Club Captain Alan Smith posted a colossal 40 points to claim top spot from Colin Bevan (38 points) who must have thought he’d won at a canter.
The first “Major” followed two days later. The Rabbit Cup is for the slightly higher handicap players in the club (over 20). A strong field of 12 participated and a close battle saw three players finish on 33 points (Dave White, Adam Hicks and Andrew Wincott) who finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Matt Squires after his disappointment in the match play returned a winning score of 35 to claim the title of Chief Rabbit. Yet another first time individual winner which would follow throughout the season.
Matt Squires wins the Rabbit Cup.
The ever popular Summer Eclectic was now in full swing. John Procter (66) showed early promise to lead the field by some 5 shots with Mark Dowling and Fred Tyne (both on 71) chasing him down. One of the hunters would eventually become the hunted!!!
Under normal circumstances the annual Stableford Cup would be thrashed out over 6 rounds (with the worst 2 scores discarded) but being a Covid affected year the Committee decided a three round sprint was more appropriate. Round 1 saw an unusually enormous field of 24 strike out in pursuit of the coveted trophy. No less than 14 players returned scores of 34 points or more. Johnno Oakley and Fred Tyne were ecstatic at the clubhouse both on 37 until Steve Garner trumped them both by one with 38. No one expected the winning score of a massive 42 but Brian Stenson achieved just that. A total that would be difficult to eclipse with only two rounds to go.
The Ash Valley Open has produced some remarkable results over the last five years but this year was extraordinary. Another impressively large field of 26 began on a typically beautiful Ash Valley Saturday morning and Tony Gallery chasing his first individual club title set the pace with a very impressive 38 points. Having received several “air pats” on the back from the gathered hoards Tony was in good spirits. After accepting a request from the greenkeepers to assist by collecting in the tee markers, Tony left, burger in hand and returned 25 minutes later. In the time he was away, Ian Shipp posted a score to the secretary of 39 points to wrestle away the lead. But that lead was short lived. A grinning Adam Hicks sauntered onto the veranda with card in hand to proclaim “can anyone beat 41”??
Due to Colin Bevan having to withdraw the day before the competition, a slot opened up for a reserve player. Mike Dotson was eventually persuaded to participate by the club secretary and he reluctantly agreed. On his return to the clubhouse he was rather unerringly quiet. Long serving member Alan Best presented the club secretary with Mike’s card and complete silence followed. On persuading Mike to join in, the club secretary jokingly advised him not to submit a card with over 40 points. Club secretary was 4 points out. Astonishingly in his first competitive golf competition Mike had won by three point over the luckless Adam (who still hasn’t forgiven me). Another first time individual club winner this year. Is there ever an end to this???
Mike Dotson. Open Champion and Champion Golfer of the year!!
8th August 2020 – ACE#2
Second Hole-in-one of the season. During a “Swindle”, Johnno Oakley aced the par 3 11th. OUTSTANDING SHOOTING JOHNNO.
It is in there, honest Guv!! Well done Johnno
18th August 2020 – ACE#3
Are you kidding me!! Two in 10 days!!! In another social round, Graham Jackson aced the par 3 5th. “Smoothest 5 iron I’ve ever hit” was the comment from the man himself. OUTSTANDING SHOOTING GRAHAM.
Taking the knee for a different reason. Well done Graham
Late August is the traditional home of the Ash Valley Masters. Yet again the members turned out in force. Scores came in thick and fast and the leader board had no less than 5 players sharing the lead with a net 72. John Skinner, Alan Durrant, Gerry Smith, Ricky Knight and Mick O’Connor all waiting with baited breath to see who had sneaked it on countback. However the in-form Matt Squires soon eclipsed the leaders to record a 71 and looked odds on for his second title of the year to back up his Rabbit Cup victory.
In keeping with the Ash Valley Way this was not to be the case. As with the Open a “Rank Outsider” charged up on the rails. Willum Klinker, a relatively new member, submitted a score of 69 and must have thought the spoils were his. It was at this point the waiting members believed the course had lost her teeth and this was confirmed when Club Captain Alan Smith posted a staggering 67. This meant 16 players were within 5 shots of their individual par score. Phenomenal scoring by the field.
Augusta awaits you Captain
25th August 2020 – The “Old Chaps 80th”
Long serving member Malcolm Rosborough celebrated his 80th birthday in style (and torrential rain). Malcolm had absolutely no idea what to expect when he was requested to attend a special competition that day. He was met by a raucous rendition of “Happy Birthday” by a hoard of members and guests from the balcony. Dis guarding his recently “presented” Zimmer frame and shown to his appropriately decorated chariot, Malcolm led the field off for some party golf. Conditions were abysmal and everyone was waiting for him to call it a day. But in typical Malcolm style, he soldiered on and the hoards followed his lead.
The scoring was scratchy to say the least. A winning score of 34 points saw John Hawkins claim victory of the specially commissioned trophy and a lovely bottle of “Bathtub” gin donated by his long suffering friend Roger Woods. To his astonishment, Malcolm made off with the main prize by securing the lucky 8 score. Malcolm thanked everyone for a wonderful day and stayed to enjoy the “hospitality” of the clubhouse for some time.
The Jolly Boy had a good day
The second round of the Stableford Cup had been postponed shortly after starting on the 15th. Again the event was well supported but the scoring was rather timid compared to the first round. All eyes were on the first round leader, Brian Stenson who backed up his first round score with a respectable 32. Steve Garnar made ground on Brian with a steady 33, similarly Dave White and Johnno Oakley gained by virtue of posting 34. However the club secretary James outshone the field with a winning score of 35. It was a tight race for the cup at the top. Brian 74, Johnno and Steve both on 71.
Club championship day is always a test of grit and determination. This double header competition is always a fight against nature. 2020 was no exception. The course had dried out and the greens were fast. Yet again the competition was extremely well supported in the tough conditions. Seven players shot a gross 79 with James O’Sullivan shaving the lead on countback from Paul Ireland. Andrew Moles (78), Steve Garnar (77) and Stuart McLean (76) all posted repectable scores but Dave White slithered past them with a 74.
Mark Dowling showed some long lost form with a nicely composed 73 to dispose Dave from top spot but the drama continued in this unusual of all seasons. Ian Shipp, another new member, romped in with a superb 72 and was suitably impressed by his achievement. But in this year of “Firsts” another relatively new member excelled to deny Ian. Johnno Oakley shot a magnificent gross 87 (net 71) to claim both the Club Champion title and the Club Handicap Champion title. Hole-in-one, Club Champion, Club Handicap Champion – whatever next?????
John Oakley having received Club Champion trophy and Handicap Champion trophy from Captain Alan Smith.
The September Midweek Stableford showed a much needed return to form for Karl Brown. Karl hit some astonishing shots in his score of 41 points to relegate Colin Bevan into second with a more than impressive 38. Alan Webb, Mark Forster and Alan Creek fought out the minor placings.
Round 3 of the Stableford Cup produced another extraordinary accumulation of high scoring. In gusty conditions over half the field posted impressive scores of 32 points or better. Again a six way tie on 34 was dependant on countback of which Tony Gallery held the temporary lead. Chris Morris (36) was displaced from top spot by Club Captain Alan Smith with his 37. The drama was still to unfold as both Ian Shipp and Ricky Knight both came in with 38. Ricky pipped Ian on countback for the honours on the day and Ian’s excellent effort propelled him into second place behind Brian in the overall standings. Johnno Oakley and Steve Garnar both finished on 71 one shot behind Ian who was two back from Brian.
Brian Stenson receiving the Stableford Cup trophy from Captain Alan.
A new challenge was accepted by the club to take on a team from Carver Barracks in a Ryder Cup style match. For reasons of diplomacy I can’t publish the score but I will say “local knowledge and course experience” was priceless to the AVGC members. The format was thoroughly enjoyed by both parties and some friendships were cemented for both sides to build on. This fixture will be repeated in 2021 and be assured, Redwing want revenge!!!!!
With the end of the season looming Captain/Club Day arrived only three days after the Redwing match. Robert Dixon Ltd provided a no expense spared traditional Captains table as prizes with the Captain providing some “extras”. A massive 32 strong field was led off by the Captain himself as he attempted to make it a “Captain’s Hat-trick” in emulating his two predecessors James O’Sullivan and John Dixon on winning their Captains Day. Alan had a fair crack and finished with 32 alongside John Procter, Fred Tyne, Mick O’Connor and Steve Garnar with Fred edging the group on countback. A blast from the past soon followed when the irrepressible Malcolm Rosborough carded 34 but the octogenarian was to fall a tad short. Chris Morris has been an avid supporter of the club for the last 10 years and was elated to post a total of 35 points to top the leader board. As the presentation party began preparation to dish out the prizes a spanner was well and truly thrown in the works. Gerry Smith cruised in with a magnificent 37 to wrestle the top prise from Chris.
Captain Alan presented all the prize winners with their loot and everyone enjoyed the “Captains hospitality”.
The season finale at Ash Valley is the Cyril Pooley Memorial Trophy. Cyril was a former member of staff at Ash Valley and well respected by his piers and still is since his passing some time back. The competition is set over two rounds on consecutive Saturdays and to finish as “top dog” is highly revered by the members. Round 1 is like “moving day” at the Masters, players trying to get themselves as high up the leader board as possible for the final push the following week. As the man was popular, so is the event. Another strong field took to the course hunting for glory. Scoring was not as easy as in the previous months. But in true Ash Valley style, bunching after round 1 was predictable. Four players (Graham Jackson, Adam Hicks, Dave White and Marcus Carruthers) all returned a respectable 29 points. After his 4th place in the Rabbit Cup, Andrew Wincott impressed with 30 along with a return to form of Neil Hummerstone, who had been one of last year’s steadiest players. But James O’Sullivan and John Procter both with 31 took the minor placings behind a surprise winner of round 1, Paul Ireland (34)
Round 2 was blown wide open with the withdrawal of John Procter. To say the least, the conditions were absolutely abysmal. Torrential rain nearly put paid to the second round as the course was declared “just playable” by the greenkeepers. Setting off in reverse order the groups battled on regardless. Marcus Carruthers who had a respectable 29 in the first round, bettered his score by 1 to finish on 59 points and claim 3rd spot. Having finished in 12th place in the previous round, Johnno Oakley catapulted himself into 4th place with 31 finishing on 58. That left the last group battling for the top two spots. Paul Ireland started steadily but at the turn, James had nullified Pauls lead from the first round and was 1 point clear thanks to a bizarre birdie on 6. Paul battled on but didn’t have his greatest day, a second round of 27 gave him a total of 61. James carded a score of 33 points to steal the trophy from the luckless Paul. The season was finally completed with all the Major competitions finished on schedule.
Only one competition runs for the entire season. The Summer Eclectic, known to some members as something “unfathomable”. As previously described, the hunter became the hunted. Fred Tyne was originally attempting to chase down John Procter at the top of the tree. Not only did Fred catch him but rocketed past him to post an amazing net 53. John finished in a respectable 6th on 57. Ian Clibbon showed steady form throughout the season and posted a great 55 but could only manage 5th. Three players finished tied on 54, Mike Dotson, Adam Hicks and Gerry Smith with Mike taking second on count back from Adam, however nothing was to deny Fred from yet another first time individual win this year.
Special shout out to Graham Jackson and John Procter who have represented AVGC superbly in the Daily Mail National Foursomes competition. They have beaten both Bishops Stortford and Manor of Groves golf clubs to reach round 3 when the competition eventually returns. Good luck from us all boys.
Covid didn’t stop the Ash Valley advance. All competitions (some reduced in length) where completed.
We have had many new faces arrive and new friendships have been formed throughout the season. The club has a new professional, Paul Ring and he has introduced his “Sharpshooters” to the club which can only bode well for the future. An astonishing amount of new, first-time winners have won competitions which proves “anyone can do it” and “you have to be in it to win it”!!!!!!
Robert Dixon Ltd has supported the club superbly throughout 2020. The greenkeepers have again excelled in the presenting the course in the best possible condition regardless of the weather. The clubhouse staff have provided outstanding service to the club and members under enormous pressure and the members are extremely grateful.
On behalf of the members, I as club secretary would like to extend the gratitude of the members to all the management and staff at AVGC for your unwavering support for the 2020 season and look forward to next year with great anticipation.
On behalf of all the hardworking staff and management, I would like to thank all the members and visitors to the course this year for your support and wish you all well for next season.