Almost 50 golfers gathered for the County Seniors' Championship at Tiverton on Thursday. They were met with a superbly presented golf course under clear blue skies and, boy, was it hot.
The event is a key part of the County Order of Merit, with double points awarded for both the Scratch and Handicap competitions and the top 20 in each scoring points. It is a 27-hole event, the morning 18 followed by a sprint to the finishing line 9 in the afternoon.
The Scratch Championship had a bunched look after the morning 18, Torquay’s Peter Bicknell (1) holding a single shot lead over defending champion Tim Aggett (Warren, 1) 72 to 73. Behind them came a trio on 74, Teignmouth’s Andre Hogan (2) with the host club’s Tony Allsopp (3) and Martin Selby (6) plus a further four on 75; Paul Newcombe (East Devon, 2), Phil Lyons (Churston, 2), Mark Evans (Royal North Devon, 3) and Paul Vicary (Saunton, 2).
In the Handicap, Selby’s round gave him a net 68 and a 3-shot lead over Exeter's Vice Captain Rick Pillow (5), Bicknell and Allsopp with Teign Valley’s Steve Allen (6) on 72 alongside Aggett, Hogan and Evans.
The front 9 at Tiverton can always produce problems, with players having to navigate the “Canal Turn” as well as the awkward dog-legged par 4s in the middle of the 9. The trees have a habit of leaning out and grabbing a ball as it flies past too. The afternoon was more about survival as the heat increased, both actual and mental.
As the home challenge faded, Aggett was the first of the leaders back in setting the mark at +5 after 38 for the afternoon. Hogan came in half an hour later on the same figure, having shot a 1-over 37. Andre frustratingly dropped a shot on the 9th; would that prove crucial? Everything was down to what Pete would do. After an early birdie he seemed in complete charge, but those middle holes got him and after a dropped shot and a double at 6 and 7 he was under pressure. He rose to it, producing pars on the difficult 8th and awkward 9th to secure the victory by a single shot.
There is also an Over 65s prize, for the best scratch total in that age range which with Vicary taking 5th place overall this year went to former Seniors' County Champion Grahame Sanford of Staddon Heights.
Vicary added an excellent 37 to his morning score to secure 4th place and Richard Ward (Dainton Park, 2) added 38 to his morning 76 to gain 5th prize
In the Handicap, and again with the home challenge fading, Pillow shot an excellent level par gross in the afternoon for a nett total of 105, beating Steve Allen into 2nd place with Selby getting 3rd spot just ahead of Teignmouth’s Richard Armitage who’s nett 34 pushed him up the field.
Peter will now represent Devon in the England Golf Senior Champion of Champions event at Frilford Heath GC in September.
At the conclusion of the day DevonGolf's Seniors' Captain Colin Papworth announced the players to represent Devon in the Senior South West Championships, again at Tiverton, on July 24th and 25th. This team will be attempting to qualify for the English Senior County Finals at Effingham GC in October, a team qualifier including within the event. The squad for that event is: -
Colin Papworth (Captain, Teignmouth GC)
Tim Aggett (Warren GC)
Tony Allsopp (Tiverton GC)
Peter Bicknell (Torquay GC)
Andre Hogan (Teignmouth GC)
Paul Vicary (Saunton GC)
Richard Ward (Dainton Park GC)
The leaders of the Order of Merit tables, Richard Ward in the Scratch and John Fairman (Exeter) in the Handicap, still hold their positions, but the chasing field have closed up. In the Scratch Tim Aggett is now just 2 OOM points behind Ward, and the exploits of Bicknell and Hogan have firmly put them in the battle. Pillow’s win in the Handicap has moved him right in behind Fairman.
After the SW Champs the last two full field events are the Tim Harris Memorial at Exeter and the County Stableford Championship at Royal North Devon. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Bovey Caste and Brittany Ferries Golfdesk the top 9 in each table will be playing at Bovey Castle in a Presentation Day event on October 1st, but it looks highly likely the OOMs will go down to the wire at RND.