Thursday, 5 September 2019
Setting off on the third leg of our tour, the weather was chilly but bright for the 100 minutes journey to Taunton. It is a quirky course, full of humps and bumps but very well presented. Our hosts made us very welcome, helpfully blocking the view of England’s demise in the cricket.
Surprisingly lunch was chips and sandwiches followed by the declaration of pairings for the battle to come.
And so, it began…
This time our Captain Phil had chosen the Vice-Captain Keith to partner him against the two Johns, the Somerset Captain and the home Captain.
The latter was imperious on the par 3’s knocking them close every time. Indeed, he would have won the Visitors prize on the 6th as well as the home one later (Keith had hit a decent shot on the NTP, so Phil offered to drink the prize. Hypothetical as it turned out, as Joe A got closer – mind he wasn’t going to share it with Derek!). Despite Sussex fighting hard to stay in the match, they went 3 down after 11, then surged back with both winning holes to level after 15. However, a loss on the 16th proved costly and they finally shook hands on the 18th - 2 down.
Onto Match 2 which combined President Ian Wood with Richard Jays in a formidable team, that started promising much. A succession of early pars gave them a 1up lead after 5 holes but then Somerset hit back hard. Their relentless onslaught saw our chaps crumble to a heavy 6&5 defeat.
Next up were previous match winners Andy Plowright and Peter Ward, the latter’s health seeming to improve day by day. Thanks to Mitch for giving up his allocated buggy, Pete was able to perform well and between them, the Sussex combo romped home 2 up. A great idea to put the occasionally wayward Andy with the ever-straight Pete!
The 4th game saw the closest contest of the day. Mitch Clark, suffering from over-indulgence the night before, and Gary Hann, who this time avoided all the sand, synchronised well. Neither side would give ground to the other, ensuring a well merited half for both teams.
Match 5 had the mythical pairing of Harry Potter and Santa, facing a Somerset pair that included a 25 handicapper. Playing “reasonable” golf, our legends turned for home 1 up but as old age (sorry fatigue) set in, the magic disappeared. Coupled with the avalanche of shots they were giving; the inevitable outcome was a 3&2 loss.
Fortunately, next were Joe Angella and Derek May who developed a winning partnership. Both were contributing to their performance which was just as well as Joe was conceding 14 shots! Thus, a fine 3&2 success was recorded for Sussex. Joe also won the NTP prize bottle which I would wager did not make it home. The seventh match proved another competitive tie as Nigel Wates and the “ever-young” Brian Street fought against very tough opponents. Nothing to choose between them after 14, the Sussex duo shared three birdies in three holes to finally win on the 18th by 1up. Nigel reported that both Brian and Bob (Som) were bleeding at the finale but did not give a reason. VAR could not ascertain the reason for the injuries, so no cards were issued.
The anchor pair of Andy Lamb and Neil Smith took their opponents by surprise as Neil put them 2 up. (And us!) Andy, with his new balls, then contributed so they found themselves 5 up after 10. Somerset would not lie down and stormed back winning 3 holes to reduce the arrears. Calm as you like, Neil won another hole (I know!), before Andy closed out the game to register a 4&3 victory.
Interestingly, one of their opponents, the Somerset President commented afterwards that whilst Andy had been very chatty, Neil just kept saying “5 net 4”, Mind you, he might have been avoiding a flying Somerset club…….
FINAL RESULT: SOMERSET 3 ½ SUSSEX 4 ½
The after-match gathering saw a superb meal provided by the Taunton Club and indeed, the Somerset team proved excellent hosts. In his speech, John, Captain of Somerset queried the result of the 2005 match which both sides were claiming to have won 6-2. (Ed note: Mark has subsequently confirmed that it was Somerset’s victory)
He then read out some one-liners to polite laughter before Phil provided the usual thanks to all concerned. He then received the trophy decanter from John and once again offloaded it to the V/C.
It was then back to our base at the Premier Inn – some already looking like it wouldn’t be a late night!