The fourth match of our league season saw the Warwickshire 2nd team up against league leaders Nottinghamshire in a home fixture at Stratford-on-Avon. Having lost our previous three matches the league title was unfortunately out of reach, but as a team we were keen to show we can still compete and we had arguably our strongest line up of the season in attendance.
Stratford was in fabulous condition, the surfaces of the greens looked wonderful and with the fairway irrigation at the club having been put to good effect over the last month or so it was a lush green oasis. All set for a good match.
First out in the foursomes was Mike Pell (Olton) and Ryan James (Nuneaton) and this was a close game with Mike chipping in twice (on the 6th and 12th) to keep the game tight. Unfortunately, for Warwickshire a loose tee shot and some tree trouble on 17 meant they would get to the last hole 1 down. Then on the Par 5 last Ryan hit a good tee shot but ended up just a little too far left meaning Mike had some tall trees between him and the green. I walked over for a look and wasn’t sure he could get both the height and distance required to make the green. Mike however not only got the ball up and over just fine, but hit it so far it actually cleared the 18th green and went long. This led to a one down defeat, which was harsh given the quality of that shot and their overall play.
Out second was Ben Bernamont (The Warwickshire) and Mark Davies (Hearsall) and they played very good golf to take an early two hole lead. Keeping their drivers in the bag most of the morning they played great regulation golf running out 5 & 3 winners with par and birdie.
Our third pairing was the all Maxstoke pairing of Gaz Greenway and Paul Walker and this season these guys have been very hard to beat. They struggled early on and missed a few fairways giving their Nottinghamshire opponents an early lead they could never quite pull back, eventually losing out 4 & 3.
In the 4th game we had Chris State (Robin Hood) paired up with Cameron Bridger (Lea Marston), who we have called up from the junior ranks following some exceptional recent performances.
Both guys played very well, making several birdies to take a lead into the closing holes. 1 up on the last tee they had the most unlucky break, when their 2nd shot clipped a fir tree, only for it to remain in the branches of the tree, unplayable. This meant a loss on the last and a halved match overall.
Playing in the last pairing was Ben Goodison (Coventry) with Chris Laird (The Warwickshire). Another very close game here with never more than a hole in it. Again standing on the 18th tee Warwickshire would hold a 1 up lead. Stuck behind the same trees Mike was behind in Match 1, Ben decided to attempt the hook around them. Unfortunately, he got a flyer and the hook just didn’t arrive, his ball finishing just a few feet out of bounds on the right of the green. Another loss on 18 and another halved match overall.
The morning session had ended with a 3 -2 defeat, but I still felt very positive. Yes, we had lost the 18th hole in three matches, but the shots we’d played weren’t that bad and I’d seen a lot of quality golf. We needed a good singles display.
After a nice light lunch the team headed out for the singles.
First out was Mark Davies and leading the way he was 2 up after 7. Again keeping the driver in the bag he would play some cracking golf to run out with a 4 & 3 victory.
Number 2 was Ben Bernamont and his match was close early on, Ben making a brilliant up and down on 7 for a halving birdie. Unfortunately, Ben’s opponent had a birdie run round the turn to get 3 up and despite Bens birdie on 15th the gap didn’t reduce, eventually losing out 3 & 2.
Next was Ryan James and he was on a birdie run of his own turning in 4 under par and holding a 4 hole lead. He would carry this on to close his match out 5 & 3 being 5 under par at this point. Great golf and a very good win.
Playing at number 4 was Paul Walker and he started well and had a putt on the 9th to go 3 up at the turn. This just missed and when I caught back up with Paul on the 16th he was now one down. Fighting hard Paul finished with two birdies to get the match win 1 up and put Warwickshire in front for the first time in the day. Great finish.
Mike Pell was our 5th man and again this was a close match. All square after 7 and again still all square through 15. Mike then went ahead on 16 when his opponent missed the green and held his nerve on 18 to make a great 10 footer for birdie to close out his match 2up.
Gaz Greenway at number 6 started fast to get a 3 up lead through 7, almost holing his 2nd to the 4th for an eagle 2. This 3up lead was one he would maintain to the 16th. Unfortunately, he just missed the winner on 16, but closed the deal on 17 with a great birdie to ensure a 2 and 1 victory.
It had been just the start we needed 5 points from the first 6 matches we needed just one more point to seal a great win.
Next was Cameron Bridger and he was playing the Nottinghamshire Captain. I caught up with Cameron after the 7th and he was 2 down at that point. A huge drive down 8 and a great wedge set up a birdie for the win and another win on 9 would see him turn all square.
The afterburners now fully ignited Cameron pushed on and a birdie on 15 gave him a 2 up lead. The 16th was playing tricky but Cameron with the honour hit his approach with an 8 iron to just a foot, closing his match out 3 & 2 and showing great composure beyond his years. Unbeaten on debut it was a very impressive performance, very much cemented his place in the squad for coming matches.
So it was a victory for Warwickshire, now it was about the margin as Nottinghamshire might need the match difference as they look to win this seasons league.
Next was Chris Staite and Chris has played some very good golf in our matches this season. Again he was super solid and kept his opponent behind all afternoon, getting the deal done 4 & 3.
At number 9 was Ben Goodison and Ben is unbeaten in singles this season for us. He kept this record up with a solid 3 & 2 win. The win containing 4 birdies and an eagle.
The last match out on the course was Chris Laird and he played Cameron Steedman from Nottinghamshire. Chris unfortunately lost out 4 & 3 but a worthy mention to Cameron who’s putting was simply outstanding all day. In this match, 11 putts through the first 9.
With everyone back in the clubhouse, the afternoon singles had fallen Warwickshire’s way, 8 points to 2. It really was a great performance by the team and finally breaks our 2018 league duck with a 10 – 5 victory.
My thanks to Brett and his Nottinghamshire team for a very high quality match, played in great spirits. We wish them all the very best in their remaining fixture. To Stratford on Avon Golf Club who were exceptional hosts throughout the day and presented the course wonderfully. Also to the Stratford members for allowing us the use of the course on a gloriously sunny Sunday. We are very grateful.
A huge thank you to the Warwickshire players who to a man gave it everything all day in very hot conditions for the 36 holes. I really do appreciate you giving up your Sunday to represent us.
As always, my personal thanks to Bob Harrison for his unwavering support of the team and his wise council and to Matt Nixon for acting as starter and photographer.
I have to confess to being personally relieved that we have put in this performance today and have our first league win of the season. As we know, golf is as much a challenge for the mind as it is the body. In the back of mine, I was deliberating if I’d ever know what picking up a league point as captain would feel like.
To borrow words from our recent Warwickshire under 18 champion, Jamie Johnson,
“It feels pretty sic”
(Translates to “pretty awesome” so I’m told)
2nd Team Captain