The Devon Senior's Men team took their first step down the road of defending their Southern Counties Foursomes title and, in a titanic battle with Gloucestershire, it came every close to being their last step.
It was a beautifully sunny day at Royal North Devon Golf Club, but one complicated by a powerful cold easterly wind shrieking across the course, the worst direction for play as the first series of triangular alternate shot matches got underway – confusing the locals as apparent 6-balls headed off up the 1st.
Gloucester were out of the traps fast, Shirehampton’s Steve Yorke with Mike Jarvis from the Thornbury Golf Centre beginning their undefeated day in fine style, quickly assuming commanding leads over both their opposing pairs. Whilst Pete Bicknell (Torquay) and Chris Audin (Exminster) did get back to defeat the Somerset pairing of Frank Ellis and Andy Fisher (both Burnham) they couldn’t haul back Gloucester.
It was a similar story in the second group as the Knowle pairing of Nick Barwood and Tim Rogers surged away. The Churston duo of Rick Osborne and Simon Knapman again salvaged a point against Somerset’s Oake Manor duo of Simon Rudd and James Ward, but it was a perfect start for Gloucestershire - 4 out of 4.
Host club’s Mark Evans with Thurlestone’s Dave Eva continued their amazing partnership with 2 big wins in the third group, crucially for Devon Rob Chandler (Orchardleigh) and Neil Holbrook (Mendip Spring) got one over on Gloucestershire too. Group 4 was a disappointment; Warren’s Jez Binch and Teignmouth’s Colin Papworth looked in a good position, ahead of both Andy Harriot and Neil Folland (both Burnham) and the Long Ashton pair of Richard Wood and Andy Wright through 16, but came out with two halves, whilst the Gloucestershire pair got the win over Somerset
Tony Allsopp (Tiverton) and Tim Jones (Warren) had the worst of all starts but bravely fought back to secure a win against Somerset Captain Paddy Maclennan (Enmore Park) and Jon Vickerstaff (Clevedon), but had no answer to some brilliant play from Vern Chappell (Cotswold Edge) and Gloucestershire Captain Nick Morris (Lilley Brook) who took both points.
At lunch, Gloucester 7½, Devon 6, Somerset 1½.
Pace of play had been not great during the morning, and with the change in the order that is a part of Southern Counties Foursomes golf, some of the later pairs had very little time for lunch – thank goodness it was a buffet and a sumptuous one at that - though I’m not sure that generously portioned proper Devon scones loaded with cream and jam are really that good for senior waistbands!
As the wind changed to howl in off the sea, Devon needed a huge effort in the afternoon but did not get the start they wanted. After a battling round struggling to get on terms, Knapman left a 30-foot birdie putt on the lip at 18 which would have turned two 1-down losses into 2 halves. However, for Gloucestershire Yorke and Jarvis had secured the perfect afternoon start with a further 2 wins. It felt Devon could barely afford more slip up or would need help from Somerset; in the event it was a bit of both.
In very short order Eva and Evans came through again, winning both their matches in the 2nd afternoon group, defeating Somerset’s Ellis and Fisher 4-3, Gloucs’ Barwood and Rogers 2/1. In between those two results came news that Binch and Papworth had bounced back from the morning disappointment to win both their games 6-5, and, crucially, Ward and Rudd were leading Chappell and Morris – the Somerset duo would eventually win at the last.
Allsopp and Jones were playing the best golf of the afternoon, recording a 6-4 win over Harriott and Folland, 3-2 over the Lilley Brook pairing of Brian Mitten and Tim Clink but the Gloucestershire duo also beat the Somerset pair.
There was one group left on the course, Bicknell and Audin for Devon but 1 down in both their matches going down 17. Somerset's Maclennan and Vickerstaff were also 1 up on Wood and Wright. A superb chip from short side at 17 by Maclennan preserved their leads as Audin’s birdie putt stopped agonizingly on the lip. Down the last (and probably misinformed by the Team Manager who was struggling to work out the scoring maths!), Bicknell went after a very tight pin and hit the side of the green; Somerset were long, Gloucestershire were on the front of the green putting up the slope.
Maclennan again chipped beautifully up to about 5 feet. Audin’s chip took a malicious bounce, skipped the bank it should have hit and ran 20 feet past. Wood putted up to 4 feet. At this point three results were possible, an overall win for Gloucester, a tie or, most unlikely, a win for Devon.
After a day of self-admitted putting woes, out of nowhere Bicknell holed across the green, Vickerstaff smashed in Somerset’s 5-footer to claim 2 wins and then faced with an absolute horror of a 4-footer which Wright missed. Devon claimed a vital ½ point and Gloucestershire were denied a win.
Even at that point it needed some careful working out to deduce the final result, but once Team Manager Tim Aggett had sat down and gone through the whole thing it transpired Devon had accumulated 6½ points in the afternoon, crucially Somerset 4½ and Gloucester 4.
Final result: Devon 12½, Gloucester 11½, Somerset 6.
Team Manager Aggett had nothing but praise for the team: “The response of the team in the afternoon after, to be honest, a disappointing morning finish was just fantastic. The big wins from two pairs only formed this year who have between them now won 11 out of 12, and a third formed for the event also winning twice and big in the afternoon were quite brilliant whilst the championship class of Bicknell and Audin right at the death, after a day of struggle with Chris distinctly under the weather was just tremendous.”
|Peter Bicknell (Torquay)||Chris Audin (Exminster)|
The Devon side will progress to the final at Boyce Hill Golf Club on 15th September, with the other qualifiers being decided through July and August – details on the South Eastern Group Golf website
No question the result adds some spice to the next Channel League fixture, away to Gloucestershire at Lansdown GC next Monday. 9 of the 10 who represented Devon at RND play at Lansdowne with Aggett coming back in for the unavailable Binch.