It was a long, hard and hot day that ended in sheer delight for the DevonGolf Senior Squad as they won the highly prestigious Southern Counties' Foursomes Trophy for the first time, played this year at Waterlooville Golf Club in Hampshire.
Having won their preliminary match back in June, Devon faced some of the heavyweights of the South East Group of counties. Double defending Southern Counties' Foursomes champions, Sussex, viewed the final as a tune up for their upcoming appearance in the English Seniors' County Finals and came with a side which included their senior internationals. Sussex have also won the South Division of the South East Group League. Hertfordshire, winners of the North Division of that league (who will thus play-off against Sussex), were also at Waterlooville Golf Club fielding as strong a team as they could muster. The last combatant was Norfolk who had won the East Anglian preliminary and are themselves undefeated in inter-county league golf this season in their division of the Midland Leagues. Tough opposition all round.
The format of the day meant, across the two rounds, Devon would play 10 matches - 4 against Hertfordshire, 3 each against Sussex and Norfolk. Sussex were considered the big threat and the two matches against them in the morning session felt hugely important.
In the top match Peter Bicknell (Torquay) and Chris Audin (Exminster) gave the side the perfect start with a dominant 5-4 victory over the top Sussex pairing of Irish international Steve Graham and his partner Mark King. They won the first 3 holes to establish a lead and were never threatened. DevonGolf's Seniors' Captain Colin Papworth (Teignmouth) with Tim Aggett (Warren) had a much closer game with the Sussex second pair of Doug Park and Paul Plant. Devon were 1 down with 5 to go when key wins at 14 and 17 turned the deficit into a 1 hole lead which Devon retained up the last.
Rick Osborne and Simon Knapman (both Churston) found themselves 3 down at the turn against Hertfordshire's Dave Scammell and Mike Ready but then won 5 of the next 8 holes to run out 2-1 winners. Nick Draper (Teignmouth), a former Hertfordshire man, and Mark Taylor (Tavistock) found themselves playing former England international John Ambridge and his Herfordshire partner Mitchell Steel but produced a brilliant 4-3 win. That left Dave Eva (Thurlestone) and Mark Evans (RND) out last against Norfolk’s Phil Brown and Dave Hewson and the Devon pair cruised to a 2-1 win.
A 5 point clean sweep wins for Devon - but it wasn’t over by a long way....
The 2 wins against Sussex were massive. Sussex won their other 3 matches to lie second at lunch, Hertfordshire and Norfolk had a point each.
It was never likely to be as straightforward in the second session and nor was it. Aggett and Papworth suffered their first defeat of the season, losing 3-2 to Hertfordshire's Ian Simpson and Simon Kay. Next Eva and Evans also lost 3-2 to the Sussex pairing of Andy Barnes and Trevor Greenfield. As the afternoon progressed with Devon well up in 1 match and 2 very close games being contested, thoughts wandered to the possibility of Sussex mounting a charge to chase Devon down. Hertfordshire's Scammel and Ready gave Devon a real boost with their win over the experienced Sussex duo of Colin Jones and Mark Logan but it was still looking close. Sussex could still get to 7 but could Devon get to 7½?
Osborne and Knapman played some magnificent golf against Norfolk’s Mark Williamson and John Taverner, the Norfolk pairing battling hard. Knapman thumped an approach at 14 to within 5 feet of the hole but the Norfolk duo holed their 35-footer for a half. The Devon pair stuck to their task doggedly and ran out 3-2 winners. 1 in the bag!
With a two tee start Devon’s remaining two games finished almost at the same time. First Draper and Taylor played up their 18th hole, the 9th on the course, against Adrian Myhill and Alistair Pykett of Norfolk with a 1 hole advantage. The Norfolk pair had a medium length birdie putt to halve the match but it slid by, giving Devon another precious point.
Meanwhile Bicknell and Audin were playing the actual 18th against Paul Nancarrow and Tyrone Carter from Hertfordshire finishing the game all square. Neither team was on the 550 yard par 5 green in 3. Nancarrow chipped to 5-feet and level with the flag. Devon's Audin followed that with a beauty down the sloping green just 3 feet from the pin. Carter banged in their putt for par and Bicknell nervelessly followed him in the hole to secure a half in that match and putting Devon out of reach of Sussex.
The final Sussex pair on the course, Park and Plant, came back from 3 down after 10 to secure a half against Norfolk’s Simon Butts and Mark Jennings, but with that crucial defeat Sussex were always going to be short.
Captain Colin Papworth was absolutely delighted with the team’s performance. He said, “A competitive squad develops a competitive team. This is a victory for all of us in the squad and let’s continue to build from here. It is a real privilege to captain such a great bunch of players.”
Huge thanks go to Waterlooville Golf Club for staging the event so well, presenting a course in immaculate condition and recognising the importance of the event by closing it to other golfers for the entire day. Thanks also to the Hampshire County officials who turned out in force to support and Martin McDermott, South East Group Secretary, for his tireless and effective organisation and communication.
The final scores were: