Following a 20-month absence of competitive County Men's golf the Midland League began with a fierce contest between the strong county of Nottinghamshire and a Warwickshire team that wanted to regain the League trophy following wins in 2017, 2018 and a Runner-up position to Derbyshire in the last campaign pre-Covid in 2019.
Reasonable weather greeted the players at Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell) and a great test of matchplay golf was promised on this top 50 UK golf course. The players representing Warwickshire were:
Dan Bardsley – Moor Hall GC
Rob Bardsley – Moor Hall GC
Warren Bladon – Kenilworth GC
Steve Creed – Stratford-upon-Avon GC
Tom Cleaton – Rugby GC
Josh Davenport – Maxstoke Park GC
Tom Ibbertson – Coventry Hearsall GC
Mike Pell – Olton GC
Louis Sanders – Copt Heath GC
Rhys Wallace – Handsworth GC
Beginning the morning foursomes the Bardsley brothers had the task of taming the newly crowned Midland Mid-Amateur Champion Ross Overton and regular 1st teamer Mark Porter. First and second hole wins for Notts was the dream start but halves in Eagle 3's at the 3rd meant the Warwickshire pair were up for this fight. That score remained the same after 9 holes but another lost hole early in the back nine gave Rob and Dan too high a mountain to climb and the match went Notts way on the 15th green (4&3).
Second pairing for Warwickshire was the vastly experienced Warren Bladon (past British Amateur Champion) pairing with County debutant Louis Sanders of Copt Heath. Solid foursomes golf showed being 1up after 3, 2up after 7 and 3up at the turn. Notts fought back to reduce the deficit to 1up after 15 holes but a pin point pitch to a couple of feet on 16 doubled the lead. Notts could not win the par 5 17th and a 2&1 win for Warwickshire squared the match.
The two Tom's (Cleaton & Ibbertson) were the 3rd pairing. An eventful par at the 1st was followed by birdie on 3 and a 2up start. This increased to 3up after 7 but a loss on 8 and a Notts birdie of the Par 3 9th meant a tight match going into the back nine. Warwickshire pushed forward to be 2up after 14 and a further win on the 16th meant an excellent 3&2 win giving Warwickshire the match lead (1-2).
Both returning from US Colleges, the youthful pairing of Rhys Wallace & Josh Davenport went out at No.4. A par, par start followed by a Josh bomb of 360 yards down the par 5 3rd gave Rhys a comfortable short iron to make the easiest of birdies and a 2up start. They maintained that lead after 9 holes but were then pegged back to all square after 15. Rhys Wallace drained a 35' putt on the 16th to gain the lead again and a further birdie on 17 closed the match 2&1, Well done lads !!!!
Mike Pell and Steve Creed completed the foursomes matches with a tough game against Notts regulars Adam Dorricott and Mike White. A par, par, birdie start meant 1up after 3 but two 30ft putts on 6 & 7 reversed the score and 3 putt on 9 meant 2 down after 9. Mike and Steve dug deep and and squared the match after 16 holes. A messy bogey on 17 for Notts and a simple 4 on the difficult 18th for Warwickshire meant a 2up victory and 1-4 morning lead for the visitors !!
After the morning Foursomes: Nottinghamshire 1 Warwickshire 4
The ten afternoon singles began with Louis Sanders, starting solidly being all square after the 3rdand then building a 2up lead after 12 holes. Losses on 13 & 14 and he was back to level again. His Notts opponent just edged the match on the 18th to record a 1up win. Unlucky Louis, but a very accomplished 1st team debut. Many more to come l am sure!
Slot 2 put old room mates together Ross Overton against Warren Bladon. Ross's warm putter worked well holing birdie and par putts with annoying regularity and although Warren was a couple under after 14 he was still 4 down !! A half on 15 and it was Ross's point, well played to both !!
Matches 3, 4 and 5 featured Rob Bardsley, Tom Ibbertson and Dan Bardsley. Rob began well enough being A/S after 3 but went 2 down after 14 and never recovered losing 2&1 on the 17th green. Tom's game was very tight from start to finish,1up after 3, 1 down after 9, all-square after 16. A birdie on 17 nudged Tom ahead and he hung on for a valuable 1up victory. Dan is a gritty match player and as expected took his Notts man all the way down the 18th. 1st team golf is the narrowest of margins and the match could have swung either way, Notts prevailed this time with a 1up win.
(Five matches left on the course) Match score – Nottinghamshire 5 - Warwickshire 5
Match 6 featured Tom Cleaton of Rugby GC. 1Up after 3, A/S at 9 and 2up after 16 gave Tom a definite half with two to play. A drive that found the fairway bunker on 17 meant a loss but Tom held his nerve to record a very valuable last hole victory, well done Tom !!
Fireworks were about to go off on Hollinwell's back nine as Warwickshire's Josh Davenport and Nottinghamshire's Killian Ryan traded birdies and eagles!! Josh was 2up after 5 and ended the front nine 1up. Killian birdied 4 of the first 5 holes on the back nine to go 2up after 14. Josh birdied the formidable 15th hole and then drove the 16th green to pile the pressure on his opponent. The Notts man was up to the task and birdied 16 to retain a 1up advantage. Josh pummelled a drive and wedge onto the 550 yard 17th green to 8 feet and rolled his eagle in – pure class and drama ! All square and off down 18. Just to put the cherry on the cake, Josh birdied the 18th to take a great match 1up. Fantastic power golf and scoring from Josh (-5 for the last 4 holes is some finish at Hollinwell) – well played Josh !!!
Match score – Nottinghamshire 5 - Warwickshire 7
Match 8 featured Handsworth's Rhys Wallace following his return from a first year in his US college. A solid start followed with birdies at 3, 4, 5 and 6 gave Rhys a 2up halfway lead. Notts fought back to take 1up led on to the 18th tee. As solid two putt par from back edge gave Notts a further point in the match. Mike Pell's match against Mike White was an up & down affair. Warks up earlier after 3, A/S after 9, Notts 3up after 15 but then another driven green on the Par 4 16th by Mike Pell yielded a birdie and another on 17 and we were off down the last again !! Unfortunately for Warwickshire the Notts player made a very solid Par 4 and won the point 1up.
(1 match left on the course) Match score – Nottinghamshire 7 - Warwickshire 7
The deciding Match 10 featured Steve Creed against Adam Dorricott. A/S after 3 holes, Notts 1 up after 9, A/S again after 16. Fireworks had not quite gone out when Creedy reached the 17th green in two and gently rolled his eagle putt in for a vital 1up lead – brilliant !! A regulation fairway and green gave Steve an easy par and the winning point for Warwickshire with a 1up victory. Well done Steve !!!
Final Match Score - Nottinghamshire 7 - Warwickshire 8
My thanks to the Nottinghamshire players and Captain for an excellent battle all day. It was the tightest of matches that could have gone either way. My appreciation to Hollinwell and their members / staff for hosting the match and our players throughout the day. As always l am personally grateful to Pete Clarke, Stuart Bloxham and County President Mark Reynolds for their help, advice and support on the day – Thank you ! Also great to see support for our lads at an away fixture (Bob and Paula Wallace – hope you did not get too wet and cold)
An excellent start to the League season winning away from home, next match is at Walmley Golf Club against Derbyshire on Sunday 4th July – All support is welcome.