(Pictured: Left Chris Leonard 2nd Team Captain, Right Graham Hayes Immediate Past President)
Warwickshire’s 2nd Team found themselves in the not unfamiliar surroundings of Edgbaston Golf Club for a pre-season friendly against Northamptonshire.
The Team was made up of some familiar faces, and a couple less so, also included were 2 players who have recently returned from the professional ranks.
With the weather being reasonably kind to us, except for a stiff and very cold wind, but no signs of any precipitation, the players gathered for breakfast followed, quite literally by a warm up!
First to tee off in the Morning’s Foursomes was Stratford upon Avon’s Morgan Jackson, partnering Kenilworth’s Elliot Forbes, who had until recently been plying his trade in the paid ranks. A slow start meant the Warwickshire duo were heavily behind early on but by the turn had reduced the deficit to just 2 down, and news was even better by the 15th when they had levelled the match! A Northants’ birdie on 16th followed by a stunning Warwickshire eagle on Edgbaston’s only par 5 17th, meant honours were even playing the last, however a costly Warwickshire bogey saw our chance of a point slip away. Very well played none the less, especially after being 4 down thru 5!
2nd out was all Hearsall Pairing, Mark Davies and Sam Foster. The former having had 4 years as a professional and being given his amateur status back just over a year ago. The familiar pairing had a nip & tuck battle with neither pair being more than 1up, ensuring the match went down the last with Warwickshire enjoying a slender 1 up lead. However, an inspired Northants’ shot from the trees set up a par which was enough to square the match and a friendly half a point.
The match’s 3rd Warwickshire pair saw Olton’s Kieran Blundell team up with Nuneaton’s Stephen Harriman playing in just his 2nd County men’s match. The 2 got off to a difficult start and went behind to some very solid Northamptonshire golf, and unfortunately were never able to close the gap, eventually succumbing by 4 and 3. Unlucky Kieran & Stephen, your positive attitude and great team spirit was evident even in defeat - There’s always next time.
4th to board Edgbaston’s 1st tee was all Karl pairing, Smith & Mason, neither being strangers to county golf and looking to get their 2016 record off to a winning start. This looked to be exactly what they would do as they seized early advantage, however a late Northants fight back meant a half point was the Karl’s only reward. A valiant effort from both Karls!
Finally, but by no means unexpectedly, was County luminary Neville Gardner, who this time has Coventry GC’s Ben Goodison for company. The pair by their own admission didn’t bring their A game with them, and Northants took a slender early lead. Ben and “Super Nev” hit back with a birdie on the tricky 9th to square the match, and had pulled 2 clear by the time they played the 13th Hole. But alas Nev's Super powers, and Ben’s precision golf would wane over the closing holes and the duo would narrowly lose 2down.
Which all meant that on a day where 4 of the 5 matches went down the 18th, we could have expected a closer score line, rather than the 4-1 deficit we actually had. As ever the Warwickshire Team Spirit was in abundance and having enjoyed a hearty lunch the players were back out looking for better results, and dare I say it, redemption!
Even with my modest maths abilities, it was evident Warwickshire would need at least 7 of the 10 singles points to claim an unlikely victory, but that wouldn’t stop us trying to overturn the morning’s Northants’ landslide!
We got off to the ideal start with Elliot Forbes (1up), Morgan Jackson (6&4), Sam Foster (5&4) and Kieran Blundell (7&5) all recording victories which meant 6 games were out on the course and scores were 5-4 in our favour. However this was only momentarily as Mark Davies would unfortunately lose his singles match 2&1, and seconds later Ben Goodison succumbed to his Northants opponent 4&3. Meaning we would need to win the remaining 4 matches to win the match. This feat proved to be beyond us with Stephen Harriman (1dn), Karl Mason (3&2), Nev Gardner (3&2) all suffering defeats and only Karl Smith recording a much needed win, claiming his match 3&1.
So with the scoreboard clearly not going in Warwickshire's favor, it was time to glean the positives from the day’s match, of which their were many. The match allowed me to introduce, and in some cases, reintroduce players to the County 2nd Team, with a view to including them in 2nd, and potentially 1st Team matches later this season. Also positive was the ability to pair players together with the possibility of using these pairings again in later matches. But above all was the ability to see that despite being on the receiving end of a 9-6 home defeat, the famous Warwickshire Team-Spirit has not faded over the winter break, which can only be positive going into the long and no-doubt difficult season ahead, where we will be looking for better results and ultimately retain our 2nd Team Midland League Title.
Thanks as always to Edgbaston for hosting us throughout the day, the course was in great condition, and the catering and bar staff looked after both teams superbly.
Warwickshire 2nds have one more pre-season friendly away to Leicestershire & Rutland at Longcliffe GC in April, where no doubt a different looking team will look for a better outcome before the season kicks off in May.
Warwickshire 2nd Team Captain