THE FINALS TEAM
[Standing] BARRY (FRED) PRITCHARD, PHIL JONES, JEFF JOSEPH, BEN HUTCHINSON, RUARI McCALLION, CHRIS WHITE
[Seated] CHRIS DIXON, ED MALATA, ROGER INGRAM, DAVID SPAVEN
RECEIVING THE TROPHY AT THE DINNER
CAPTAIN RUSSELL OTTO holding the trophy surrounded by his successful Finals team
AND HOW IT WAS WON...
For readers of this report who are not familiar with this event, perhaps a little background information on how this event works may be necessary, just in simple terms.
This is a very competitive knock-out competition and is unique in that it is the only team knock-out event of its type in this part of the country. At present I think I’m right in saying that about 34 teams from Golf Clubs spread throughout Dorset, Hampshire & Wiltshire take part. It is organised annually by Knighton Heath Golf Club and there are two parts to it – the Trophy and the Plate. As each round is played and the next round opponents are known, a match date needs to be agreed by the Match Secretary and the venue – home or away, is decided upon using the National Lottery Bonus Ball as odd or even. That’s all that needs to be said about that.
Teams from all the signed up Golf Clubs are entered into a draw and the first round is played to decide which Clubs will continue to play for the Trophy and which Clubs will play for the Plate. The losing team in each of the 1st round matches goes on to play for the Plate and the winning teams continue playing for the Trophy.
Salisbury & Sth Wilts has reached the Final of the Trophy competition once before in 2013, but unfortunately was not successful. Last year sadly we lost in the first round and then went on to play for the Plate but got knocked out by Meon Valley only a few rounds into the competition.
This year, our luck was with us and we won the first round against Bramshaw at home 6 – 4 on the 11th May 2016 and then waited to find out who are next opponents would be. The next opponents were Queens Park and by a huge degree of luck we were to play them at home again: All down to Michael Chandler guessing the Bonus Ball correctly.
The second round was played on 5th July 2016 and we won again by a good margin of 6½ - 3½ matches so that was 2 rounds done and dusted successfully. Our next opponents were to be Ashley Wood and by some amazing luck we got to play them at home also: Michael Chandler’s luck was holding well.
The third round was played on 20th July 2016 against Ashley Wood with a similar result as the previous round. Our luck was holding and we won again by a clear margin of 6½ - 3½ matches. Hopes were rising that perhaps this year we could finally make the breakthrough and win the Trophy because now we were into the Semi-Final of the competition. Who would we meet next?
We didn’t have to wait long because news came through that we were to meet Lyme Regis in the Semi-Final and we knew that from now on we were going to be up against tougher and tougher opposition. It stood to reason, the better teams were the ones left in the competition.
The match date was finally agreed and incredibly, once again the Bonus Ball fell our way – it was to be played at home. The home advantage is a tangible thing and must not be underestimated.
On the 26th August we faced a formidable team of players from Lyme Regis Golf Club. They had 6 single figure handicap players and nobody above a 12 handicap. We had our hands full this time and we managed to field a very strong team of players because we definitely did not want to go out at this stage having had the home advantage all the way. The battle commenced and the pattern was set for a resounding victory by the S&SW team. As the results came in it was plain to see that the fighting spirit amongst the Salisbury players was winning the day and a fantastic win of 8 – 2 matches said it all. The bubbling excitement was hard to contain – we were in the FINAL at last!!!
Everything up to this point had gone well with home advantage playing a big part. However, the Final was to be played at Knighton Heath on Thursday 15th September 2016 against very strong opponents, Sherborne, who had won this trophy 4 times before. Our luck took a bit of a knock when several of our players who had played in the winning semi-final were not available to play in the Final and so the Captain and Match Secretary discussed the best possible alternatives. Having decided upon and approached a number of new players for the team, we were confident that if our nerve held then we had every chance of success. It acts as a testimony to the strength of the Seniors Section that we could call upon players who had not been called into action previously, to step up to the plate and deliver.
MATCH DAY – 15th September 2016
Our thanks go to Andy Groom the organiser-in-chief, along with Bill Kennedy and Rod Baggott, Seniors Captain, all of Knighton Heath, who greeted the 2 teams and requested the names of the 2 nominated players who in the event of a draw would go head-to-head in a sudden death play-off. For us the choice was obvious: It had to be Chris White. He was our lowest handicap player and therefore stood the best chance under pressure. Sherborne did likewise nominating Pat Lynch their ex-County 7 handicap player. The stage was set for the final showdown.
As the 10 matches got underway, it was hard to tell from the side of the fairway exactly how the matches were going, but it was obvious that despite being played in a very genial manner they were all definitely out to win. As Captain, I had decided not to play but instead lend my full support by following each match at some stage and gently enquiring as to the state of play. The early matches were all looking promising with a 3 – 1 lead but the mid to later matches were proving much harder to predict. With the early matches finished, the pattern showed a distinct lead towards Salisbury & Sth. Wilts but momentum in the matchplay situation can be a tricky thing to forecast. And so the afternoon drew on and with a lead of 4 – 2 it seemed as if the momentum was still with us. And then…and then the fight back began with Sherborne taking the next match – now it was 4 – 3.
Match 8 was now to prove pivotal and on the 15th green was hanging on a crucial long putt. I was watching from the side of the green and casually said to our man…’no pressure but we really could do with a win as the last 2 matches are in the balance’. Mentioning no names but with confident aplomb he stroked the ball into the waiting hole for a much needed half. They strode off to the next tee and disappeared down the 16th fairway and when they re-appeared on the 18th tee, the match was 1 up to us with one to play. A half on the last was all that was needed and so it ended. Now we had at least the draw and possible play-off which, while not the best outcome, was certainly better than a straight defeat. I remained just as positive at this late hour as I had been throughout the previous rounds.
The last 2 matches did indeed fall in favour of Sherborne and with the match now drawn at 5 – 5 the play-off opponents prepared themselves for one last time.
The atmosphere was beyond tense and nail-biting, it was totally partisan with the 2 teams rallying support behind their man. Ben Hutchinson kindly stepped forward and offered to caddy for Chris White. We all gathered around nervously excited and watched with bated breath as the first hole was halved in 5. On the second hole with Chris in the greenside bunker and Pat through the back of the green the pulses were racing. Chris came out of the sand with a shot that would have had a Ryder Cup crowd on their feet and barely 18 inches from the hole. Pat chipped on, but left it short: A tricky putt - Pat missed and the sigh was audible from some distance. However, in a very sportsman-like manner Pat conceded Chris' putt and they shook hands. The respectful silence that had hung over the greenside area was suddenly broken by wild enthusiastic applause. At last! We had won the coveted trophy and the joy on the faces of the Salisbury & Sth. Wilts players was clear and well deserved. Brilliant execution by Chris under huge pressure.
To finish in that manner is sadly a fact of the game, as golfers we all know that someone has to lose but I would send my congratulations to all the players who took part from both teams. They all approached the entire match in a generously, friendly manner and over dinner the hurt was soon forgotten and talk of next year's competition grew louder.
At the Prize Presentation after some speeches, the Trophy was handed to me and each member of the winning team was presented with a gold medallion to commemorate the wonderful achievement. It is my intention to present an engraved commemoration medallion to each individual who at some stage helped towards this historic achievement.
I’m immensely proud of this achievement by the Seniors Section and my deepest admiration and sincerest congratulations go to ALL the persons involved in any way with the 2016 Knighton Heath Trophy.
Well done to you all!!
Seniors Captain 2016 – Salisbury & Sth. Wilts Golf Club.
Footnote: It is my intention to obtain a framed photograph of the complete Knighton Heath Team for display in the Seniors Locker Room.