Essex v Sussex at Thorndon Park 2019

Friday, 26 July 2019

Journey’s end this time, having navigated the M25 and Dartford tunnel, was Ingrave near Brentwood where Thorndon Park was to be found. On arriving in the land that time forgot, it appeared no-one had advised the Essex team of Jurassic Park’s (sorry Thorndon Park’s) somewhat archaic rules regarding shorts and socks.

Moving on, the course was verdant and well-manicured; the clubhouse equally impressive.

Once again, Sussex found themselves arriving sporadically as the traffic took its toll; indeed, Captain Phil Williamson and Essex Secretary Peter Freeman made the pairings a brief encounter as so many players were yet to appear.

Earlier V/C Keith Talbot had been alarmed to see the Essex Captain and Secretary sitting down to a full breakfast at 11.00am – conjuring up visions of a small lunch to come. This was unfounded as the Ploughman’s proved a worthy meal before battle commenced.

And so, it began…

Captain Phil and Dave Schwarz were hoping for a fast start against Essex Captain Barry “Superman” Larcombe and Kevin “Just ordinary” Smith. Sadly, it was the home pair that powered ahead, and Armageddon was reached after only 14 holes, at which point Barry had amassed 43 points on his own! Although the record will show a 6&4 defeat for our chaps, Phil said they played well (ahem!) however they did recover some pride by winning three of the last 4 holes.

Next up were the Incredibles, Andy Plowright and Rod England who put on an immaculate performance against those Goodfellas, the aforementioned Peter Freeman and partner Bob Morris. Rod was, as ever, a revelation never missing a fairway, a green or a putt whilst Andy, the greatest showman, provided an award-winning best supporting golfer. The outcome of all this was unbelievably only a 2&1 win for the Sussex boys.

In the third slot, giving the lie to the rumour this was no country for old men, came President Ian “Woody” Wood and Dave “Santa” Wilkins. Woody, fresh from his special day yesterday and Santa, knackered having played in Woody’s event on the hottest day of the year, faced Dave Barber and Chris Callaway. (No prizes for guessing which make he plays). Apparently, Woody played like God which would be irritating enough for his opponents, without him claiming he had thought of giving up a month back due to his poor form. They were heard to mumble they wished he bl***y well had. Santa just strolled along thinking it’s a wonderful life as a 3&2 victory was secured.

The fourth match featured the V/C Keith accompanied by Dave Dalley, a player not seen in Sussex colours for many years. They were up against Bryan Powell and Alan Cook for the home team, and with few shots exchanged, honours were even through the early holes. On the 9th, the magnificent two from Sussex sneaked ahead only for Essex’s duo to immediately counter. Finally, two wins from Dave pushed the visitors ahead again at which point Bryan attempted to kill Keith by shanking a ball off two trees and landing it about 2ft away. They went to Plan B which was to win the 17th but a par from Keith on the last was enough to see Sussex home 2up.

Brian Street and Derek May aka the Sunshine Boys, got their opponents to write the account of their encounter in match 5. It must have been desperate out there for Sussex as Essex claimed Derek begged to be given a putt at one stage! Peter and Paul (no Mary?) were also very disparaging about his physique, inferring that he would be well suited to the lead role in “Moby Dick”. However, given that they also thought Brian was “lovely company”, Derek can take heart that their judgement is suspect. Our boys were finally put out of their misery at the 16th, losing 3&2.

Match 6 saw Peter Snook and Bill Milford in tandem for the first time. A very even game finally swung in favour of the South Coast gents as Bill produced some excellent golf. Snookie, despite being clearly concerned by AFC Bournemouth’s latest signing, played a key supporting role in their 4&3 victory.

(Ed note; No, Peter you cannot always play with Bill. Other players must share the penance of being your partner)

In Match 7, the adage of a game of two halves (almost) was in evidence. Andy Lamb, paired with David Sinden has tough opposition in the form of Jamie Watson and Steve Baker for Essex. The home team started well and had established a 2 hole advantage by the 8th. David, feeling a bit like the guys in Zulu, had fought them off to restrict the deficit but needed re-enforcements. Just when all seemed lost, Andy awoke ready to perform the great escape. He proceeded to shoot 4 birdies and 6 pars, the putter hotter than a hot chili or his face at Copthorne yesterday! The result was a 2&1 win for Sussex – truly an escape to victory.

Game 8 was our darkest hour as Mark “the special one” Dunn and Shaun Anderson were blitzed by Phil and Steve (Mr Sandy) to register a 4&3 defeat.

(Ed note: remember the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan – a bit like that…..)

So quickly on to match 9, which saw “the Early Bird” Des Malcolm and “the Late Comer” Graham Ward taking on Essex’s Nigel and Tom. Nigel’s claim to fame that he is the PGA Captain/Pro challenge winner meant little to our heroes, who enhanced their own reputations with an outstanding 4&3 victory. Graham’s putting was magnificent which is more than can be said for Des’s handwriting!

The final contest was between Allan Bell and Tom Pether for Sussex and Essex’s Nick and Malcolm. Nip and tuck early on, our duo cast away a slender lead, allowing Essex to get in front, a position they never lost, finally recording a home point by 4&3 margin.

(Ed note to Captain Phil: Tom said Nick was outstanding. He should have been Barry’s partner in your match. Just imagine the what the score…..)


As befits the venue, the carvery at dinner was superb, followed by for some, spotted dick. The health conscious amongst us had the lower-calorie lemon tart. In the speeches that followed, Barry tried very hard (and failed) not to look too pleased with his win over Phil, then thanked the host club which they had not used for some time.

Phil echoed this in his usual eloquent style, taking time out to observe that even if they had had Kevin on Sussex’s side as the third man, they still would have lost!

Phil had the final success as Barry had to present the (long lost - Ed) trophy to him. And so, after 2 consecutive days golf, it was a weary but happy troop that made their way home, after yet another victory on the road.

Keith Talbot