Following an opening match defeat to Worcestershire the 2nds were looking to dust themselves down and come back fighting for their match away to Shropshire and Herefordshire at Ludlow Golf Club.
With the course being 75 miles away for some, the players arrived on Saturday evening and played a practice round. Ludlow was looking in fantastic condition and with the sun out it really was a great evening with the course virtually to ourselves.
Sunday morning the players were greeted by glorious sunshine and it was already getting really quite hot by 9am. It was clearly going to be a scorcher.
After a warm up on the range (in the shade where possible) the players headed to the first tee.
The first match saw Maxstoke Parks Bainbridge shield pairing of Stephen Creed and Anthony Gascoigne take on the Shropshire Captain and partner. This was a close affair all the way and with both teams making solid pars on both 17 and 18 the match was halved.
Paul Walker and Karl Smith were next in the order and they got off to a slow start falling 4 behind after 4. Showing some good resilience, they managed to get the deficit back to just the 2 holes but could never get any closer and eventually lost out 5 & 3.
Chris Laird and Mark Davies played in the third match and Shropshire had called on a very late replacement in their team (Alex Grainger) who had kindly stepped in for them at very short notice. But, playing off a 10 handicap would always make this tough.
Chris and Mark played good solid golf to run out 6 & 5 winners and this put the first full point on the board for Warwickshire.
Ben Goodison and Dan Launchbury were in a tight game in match 4 with two good young Shropshire players. Winning the 17thhole put Dan and Ben all square. But playing 18 the Warwickshire lads had missed the green and left a tricky pitch. Ben however played a great chip to within inches of the hole and when the Shropshire team missed their 10 foot birdie putt another half point was gained.
In the final foursomes match Chris Leonard and Nev Gardner were down early – Chris’ sand wedge getting a very good workout in the early holes. They would never get a blow in and lose 8 & 6 to a strong pairing and so a 3 – 2 lead to Shropshire at lunch was the outcome.
Lunch was a nice pie and chips and following a short cool off, the singles were ready.
With the temperature now almost 28 degrees I have to apologise if my reporting skills wain in the singles but I spent the afternoon shipping water out to the course to ensure the players had enough liquids and so the score updates were less frequent than usual.
First out for Warwickshire was Chris Laird and all square at the turn he just couldn’t find the birdies needed to match his strong opponent on the back nine. Eventually losing out 3 & 2.
Next was Paul Walker and so far this season he has been very strong in all his singles matches. He carried on this trend with a gritty 1 up win showing great courage holding off a determined finish from his opponent.
In that same bracket was Stephen Creed who also had his match go down the last only for him to show supreme composure and run out a 2 up winner.
So at this point, the match was level and all to play for – however the news from the course was not so good and the middle order was suffering some heavy losses half way through their matches.
Antony Gascoigne fought hard but would lose out 5 & 3. Mark Davies was 6 down after nine holes and could not make any inroads to miss out 6 & 4. Chris Leonard would also lose by 6 & 5, his opponent playing some very good golf indeed. Dan Launchbury would lose 5 & 3.
The match had slipped away, which was very disappointing for us all. But with players still out on the course (and the water shipping still in full flight). Warwickshire fought on.
Better news was incoming from Ben Goodison who had played very good golf to beat his opponent 4 & 3.
Karl Smith had fought valiantly but would run out with a 4 & 3 defeat.
This left us with Nev on the course and out on the 15thstill (a lone match due to the other early ending matches).
Nev was all square on the 15thwhen I had to leave him to return the water buggy to the clubhouse. But some time later we saw his match still going on the 18th. Nev from the 18thfairway played a great wedge to gimme range and when his opponent failed with a long birdie attempt Nev had managed to win his match 1 up. We had a nice large diet pepsi ready and Nev looked both exhausted and red in equal measure. His wedge to the last with the team cheering on was a highlight from what was clearly a poor day for our team.
That said nothing can be taken away from a very good Shropshire team, who were brutally efficient at out playing us for the majority of the day and were both friendly and engaging throughout.
My thanks to their captain Tim and to the Shropshire team for a match played in great spirit and with lots of high quality golf. Thanks also to Ludlow Golf Club and to their starter John who kept me company throughout the afternoon (his many stories almost as good as the Shropshire golf on display).
Also a massive thank you to the Warwickshire players who gave up their weekend to represent us and who fought hard all day in very hot conditions. Whist we all clearly enjoy winning sometimes it’s good to know that we can still take defeat well and appreciate better golf when we see it.
To the next match – where we will be fighting again for that elusive first league victory of 2018.