Two New Champions!
In the second half of the summer season members were frustrated by the changeable weather conditions, which varied from rain storms to incredibly hot heat waves. The green staff battled the elements to make sure that the course was presented in the best possible condition and everyone was grateful of their tireless effort. July began with the Midweek Medal and a narrow victory for Graham Jackson over Alan Smith by one shot. In the following Monthly Medal Bob Rawlinson took the spoils with a fine 68 two ahead of Gerry Smith in second. Keith Squirrell edged out Graham Jackson in the Midweek Stableford by two points and Samuel Knight scraped home to win the Monthly Stableford on count back from Neil Hummerstone after both players tied on 37 points. The win left Samuel just one point behind leader James O’Sullivan in the season long Stableford Cup.
The main event of the month is always the Captain’s/Club Day. As always the entry list was full of eager competitors, all optimistic of their chance at walking away victorious. It was obvious to all those that gathered in the early morning gloom that the weather was going to be terrible. Heavy rain was forecast and for once it looked like the weatherman was going to be right. Club Captain John Dixon struck the opening drive and the downpour began. To say that conditions were tough would be a gross understatement, they were abysmal. Amazingly everyone that started stuck to their task and completed the round as best they could. The scorer was presented with sodden score cards, that took a while to decipher but eventually an announcement was made and the prize presentation began. It would be a bit premature to call it a tradition just yet but Club Captain John followed in the footsteps of last year’s Captain James O’Sullivan by winning his own event. His final score of 33 points was a decent effort given the conditions. It left him one point clear of four players all tied for second place. The leader of this year’s Order of Merit Neil Hummerstone took away the top prize and secured his status as the man to beat this year. The ever present Graham Jackson finished third and John Procter and Adam Hicks finished fourth and fifth respectively. The winners were treated to fabulous prizes courtesy of the Dixon family for which everyone was grateful. Despite the wet conditions the day was a real success. Members expressed their thanks to Caroline and the clubhouse staff who helped revive the players spirits with a wonderful lunch and much needed drink!
The Final of the season long Pairs Knock-out Championship took place the 1st August. Defending Champions Keith Squirrell and Steve Monks were aiming to win back to back titles whilst father & son Jonathan and Samuel Knight had their sights set on their first major honour. The match began with all four players hitting very respectable drives off the first. During the early holes the defending champions were able to build a commanding lead, only then to lose it, thanks mainly to some excellent play from Samuel. The match ebbed and flowed with the champion’s always just ahead. It looked certain that the match would end on the 16th until Jonathan rammed home a long putt to keep the match alive. As the players walked to the 18th tee Keith and Steve held a slender one hole advantage. They would be giving their opponents a handicap shot so the odds looked very much in favour of extra holes. Both Steve and Samuel were near the green in two shots, but it was Samuel who held his nerve and after tapping in for a five, nett four, the players headed to the 1st tee for the second time that afternoon. With so much at stake it was no surprise that the play from the tee was a little cautious but upon reaching the green Keith held the advantage. Having played three safe shots he had a twenty foot putt for a four. Both Jonathan and Samuel had ten foot putts for a five. The attempt to win the match from Keith was struck on the perfect line but just failed to have enough pace to reach the hole and stopped two feet short. Jonathan, with the flagstick still in, set his sights on sending the ball home and the match down the twentieth. With a firm tap the ball set off and never looked like missing, just kissing the flagstick as it dropped below ground. Keith duly tapped in for the half and the match moved on. I am pleased I was able to witness young Samuels play on the next hole. Having been given the chance by his father on the previous green he took full advantage of the opportunity and played a perfect hole. His simple tap in for a five, nett four was too good for Keith and Steve. In their final act as Match Play Champions they shook hands and in doing so handed over their crown to a delighted Jonathan and Samuel. The match had been played in the true spirit of the game with both pairs giving their very best effort. It will always be remembered as a match befitting of a final.
Neil Hummerstone continued his impressive season in the August Medal with a count back victory against Samuel Knight after both players shot 66’s. The scoring wasn’t quite as good in the Midweek Medal but despite not playing his best Graham Jackson scrapped home one shot clear of Mark Dowling and Alan Webb. The Ash Valley Masters is always a popular part of the Club year. This year was no exception, all the main contenders took their place amongst the challengers. The scoring was generally good, especially as the blustery wind played havoc with mishit shots. By the close of play Alan Best managed to just hold off Juan Andres Vidal by one shot with a level par round. In the Monthly Stableford competitions Alan Smith won the Midweek version on count back from Dino Grazioli and John Procter thumped the field with an emphatic win in the Monthly competition.
At the end of August those who had qualified for the Club Championships, via the first four Monthly Stableford competitions, gathered in the clubhouse eager to start their round. In total sixteen players would contend for two, much coveted crowns. The Handicap Championship would be awarded to the player with the best nett score and the honour of being crowned Club Champion would go to the player returning the lowest gross score. As the players set off in two balls it was clear that this was going to be no normal round for anyone. There was must speculation as to who might triumph. The fact of the matter was that it was too close to call and promised to be as exciting as anyone could remember. Graham Jackson was the first player to return the prospect of a winning score with 87-15-72. Mark Dowling toiled in the morning sun but fell just short with 90-17-73 as did Malcolm Rosborough who returned 95-22-73. As the scores kept coming it looked increasingly that Graham might just hold on until, that is Michael O’Connor spoiled the party with 85-16-70 to briefly hold both crowns. The youngest player in the field has enjoyed a truly outstanding year. Not only has he contended in most competitions, winning the Pairs Knock-out with his father Jonathan, he has also seen his handicap drop by a staggering fifteen shots. Playing with Gerry Smith, who was full of praise for the young man, Samuel returned a seasons best of 89-24-65 to capture the Handicap Trophy from Michael who was delighted to win his first Club Championship crown. Both players fully deserved their victories and a place in the history of the Club.
At the end of August James O’Sullivan still has a one point lead over Samuel Knight in the Stableford Cup and Mark Forster has established a commanding lead in the Summer Eclectic. There is still much to play for in the Summer Order of Merit. Samuel Knight currently holds the top spot with Neil Hummerstone and Mark Dowling hot on his heels.
Next month all eyes will be on the Cyril Pooley Memorial where there has been a subtle change to proceedings. This year players will play the second round in order of their first round scores with the leaders going out last. Enter via the notice board as usual. Thanks to everyone for making the competitions a great success again this year.