Golf finally returns after COVID-19 Lockdown

May/June 2020

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.

July 2020

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.

August 2020

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.