NOTT OVER TIL IT'S OVER
Warwickshire 2nd Team's final league game of 2017 saw us away to Nottinghamshire, at Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club. The Team needed to record a win, to claim a 3rd consecutive league title. The match would also be my last as Captain, after 4 years at the helm. In those years the 2nd team had enjoyed some fantastic success, finishing 2nd in 2014, before winning the 2nds league in 2015 and 2016. A 3rd title, and an unprecedented 12th consecutive league match win, would be a perfect way to sign off. No pressure lads.
The match weekend included a practice on Saturday afternoon, on an unfamiliar course, the majority of the team not having played it previously. The team were also staying overnight nearby, but with work still to do to win the league, the players partook in the almost mandatory County Curry, and a short time later were tucked up in bed.....at least that's what they told me.
Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club was the birthplace of the EGU's Macgregor Trophy, otherwise known as the English Boys Under 16 Championship, a 72 hole competition with former champions including Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Edoardo Molinari. The course hosted the tournament in 2009, 2014 and will again in 2019. The Course and in particular the Greens looked in great shape, and would undoubtedly provide a good test for both teams.
The Morning Foursomes went in Warwickshire’s favour. Sam Foster (Coventry Hearsall GC) and Gary Greenway (Maxstoke Park GC) would suffer a last hole defeat in match 1. News meanwhile was better in matches 2 and 3, with all-Maxstoke Park GC pairing Paul Walker and Anthony Gascoigne winning impressively 7&6. Not to be outdone, Olton GC's Mike Pell and Luke Allen prevailed by the same score. Superb results from both pairs.
Match 4 had Coventry Hearsall's Harry Ibbertson team up with Nuneaton GC lefty Ryan James. The youthful duo took the early lead and would go on to win 4&3, another great result and a much needed point for the Team.
The morning's final foursomes pairing had another all-Maxstoke GC feel with County Junior Josh Davenport teaming up with the always animated Steve Creed. Steve had recently played in The Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl GC, and a few of the team and I had been lucky enough to travel to watch him compete. Steve took full advantage of his time surrounded by (fellow) legends and even enjoyed a practice round with 2 time Masters Champion, and eventual tournament winner, Bernhard Langer! Meanwhile at Radcliffe on Trent GC Josh and Steve let an early 3up advantage slip, and were all square coming down the back 9. Despite a putt to win, the match would ultimately be halved, giving Warwickshire a 3.5-1.5 lead going into the afternoon 10 singles matches.
Players were soon fed and informed of their afternoon singles position, and were back on the so-far dry golf course, looking for a minimum of 4.5 points which would give us victory.
Leading Warwickshire off was Gary Greenway, up against a +4 handicapper Martin Foulkes! Gaz fell behind early but battled back on the back 9. Unfortunately despite Gaz's best efforts the match would go to Notts 3&2. Sam Foster in Match 2 was looking to chalk up a much needed Warwickshire point. The match was always going to be a close one, but Sam's determination meant he boarded the 17th Tee dormy 2 up, a solid par later and the match was all over 2&1, nicely done Foss!
Despite some very solid golf in Matches 3 (Paul Walker) and 4 (Antony Gascoigne), they would also go in Nottinghamshire's Favour 3&2 and 2&1 respectively. Unlucky Lads.
Looking to get Warwickshire Points train back on track was Mike Pell in Match 5 and Luke Allen in Match 6. Both had slender leads towards the end of the front 9. Mike was first to strike with a superb 2&1 win, finishing in style by holing a 20 foot putt across the 17th. At about the same time, Luke was closing out an impressive 4&3 victory to improve the Warwickshire points tally, a huge well done to both Mike & Luke on 2/2 points.
Ryan James in Match 7 and Harry Ibbertson in Match 8 battled hard and both recorded half points, which did the team's cause no harm at all.
Match 9 saw Josh Davenport take on Notts' Scott Krokosznki, the match always looked like going down Radcliffe on Trent's par 4 final hole, and so it would prove. Unfortunately for Josh, with the game looking like being halved, a 4 foot putt slipped past the hole, giving Notts a further point. Leaving Warwickshire requiring a half point to claim victory.
Fortunately the ever reliable Steve Creed in match 10 was stood on the 17th tee dormy 2 up, meaning the worst he could do was return the required half point. A sweetly struck mid iron into the centre of the par three 17th green, and 2 putts later meant Steve had claimed a full point and a 8.5-6.5 Warwickshire win was secured.
A superb match which had ebbed and flowed, had ended in a Warwickshire win. Our 12th in a row, and in doing so had won the league, for a 3rd straight year. My thanks go to Captain Brett Marsden and his Nottinghamshire Team for the match which had been a close one, and had been competed in great spirit.
A big thanks to Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club green’s keepers for the condition of the golf course which was fantastic, and to the professional’s shop and clubhouse staff for looking after the Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire teams all day.
Finally, as I step down as Captain of The Warwickshire 2nd Team after 4 years, I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of the players who performed magnificently and who always gave 100% whilst representing our fantastic county golf team. I've had the honour and privilege to captain 52 talented golfers over the past 4 years in league and friendly matches. And as I hand over to Chris Brown, the state of Warwickshire's Mens Teams, and of course Junior, Girls and Ladies Teams, has never looked better.
My thanks also to 1st Team Captain Stuart Bloxham, for his hard work and support which has played such a big part in the 2nd Team's success. I'm so pleased his 1st Team achieved their goal this year of winning the 1sts League, it was hugely deserved and testament to all the blood sweat and tears which Stu has put in since he took over 1st team captaincy in 2015. I wish Stu and his Team all the best for his final year of captaincy in 2018.
So many others have contributed to the 2nd Team's success, special mention should go to Matt Nixon and Pete Clarke for all their hard work behind the scenes with matches. To Neville Gardner for his counsel, advice and attendance at matches, not to mention playing, often at short notice. A better man in the 'team room' you will not find. And finally to the Supporters who attended matches throughout the season, your presence is so much appreciated by the players and myself.
I wish Chris Brown the best of luck for the seasons ahead, who knows I may even find a way of playing my way back into his team!
Warwickshire 2nd Team Captain
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