HICKORY CLASSIC ALL TIED UP!
The Club’s Annual Hickory Championship was once again blessed with the most wonderful weather. This would be the sixth year of the event and as usual there was a lot of interest. Thanks to the hard work and diligence of the green staff, the Little Links Course looked in marvellous condition. It was great to see that most had entered into the spirit of the golden age of golf. Many admitted to rummaging through their wardrobes to find the kind of clothing that would be acceptable for such a prestigious championship. As the competitors lined up to select their hickory set by the 1st tee the sartorial elegance of the players added greatly to the atmosphere of the day. The groups teed off in relaxed mood and I must say that most fared well with their opening shots. As in previous years, it took the players a few holes to fully understand their set. Some confessed to “finding a favourite” amongst the mashies and niblicks that would become their number one choice, whatever the situation.
The players were playing twice around the 9 hole course and most reported that it wasn’t any easier the second time either! There were the inevitable stories about lost balls and “foozled” drives but we did have a couple of chip-ins and a run of pars. The first player to come home with a score that was worth the effort was Alan Webb, who carded a 69, which stood proudly atop the leaderboard as lunch was being served. Those still out doing battle in the midday sun were trying desperately to catch and overhaul Alan’s total. Juan Andres Vidal, who had found the going tough over the opening holes was slowly playing his way back into contention. Steve Monks, last year’s runner-up appeared to be playing well and the 2017 champion Paul Hopkins was still in contention. A small gathering started to converge close to the leaderboard and the closing green, all eager to see the final shots and crown the new champion. In the distance the last group prepared to play. First, Steve Monks went boldly for the pin and over clubbed. Then Paul Hopkins, more cautious in his approach came up short as did Juan Andres Vidal. The best shot of the four belonged to Keith Squirrell who finished pin-high just to the right of the green. The crowd gathered silently close to the play. Steve’s chip from the light rough was unlucky not to run on further and the ball finished just short of the green. Andres played a deft little shot with his jigger and laid the ball close but too late to catch the leader. Paul, electing wisely to putt watched as the ball slid past and had to settle for a 69 and joint leadership. A similar fate awaited Keith who watched his effort just come up short before tapping in for a 69 of his own. The stage was set for Steve to go one better than last year, all he needed was to two putt from 15ft. The first putt was tentative as he desperately tried to lay the ball dead and there were sharp intakes of breath when the ball came to rest, two and a half feet short. Anyone unfamiliar to golf wouldn’t understand the situation Steve now faced. Many a great player, throughout the history of the game, can testify to missing such a vital putt on the game’s biggest stage. Now, here stood Steve Monks, in front of his peers with his moment to shine. The tension was electric. Crouching low he drew the putter back and jabbed at the ball. Sometimes there are no words of comfort one can offer. All those present respectfully remained silent as Steve tapped the ball, the remaining two inches into the hole. Like all great sportsmen he acknowledged and congratulated his playing partners as they departed the scene. The drama on the closing hole had resulted in a four way tie. Alan Webb, who had been waiting for over two hours, couldn’t believe he still had a chance. The other contenders were of course Keith, Paul and a somewhat shaken Steve. At the closing presentation ceremony the final places were read out in reverse order. The cards had been carefully checked and double checked to determine who, by virtue of the better back nine would become the champion of 2019. In fourth place was Alan with Keith finishing third. Everyone waited patiently to find out if Steve’s missed putt on the last would be reprieved or if his agony would continue. Sadly for Steve the missed putt did make all the difference and for the second year in a row he ruefully accepted the runners-up prize. This year’s Hickory Championship maybe remembered as the one that Steve lost rather than the one Paul won. However, when you put all the “if’s, buts and maybes” aside the Champion is the one who returns the lowest score and on this day that was Paul Hopkins, our Hickory Champion 2019.
Thanks to everyone who took part and especially to Mr Dave Rose whose company Hickory Golf Days UK once again provided the equipment for everyone to enjoy.