Match Play Championship 2021 Final at ESN

Friday, 8 October 2021

On a murky morning, the final of the 2021 SGC Matchplay took place on 7th October at ESN as part of the annual dinner day at that venue.

I was honoured to be the official referee for the final and knew I was there in case of argument or even violence breaking out but as all four players were past Club Captains and members of SGC, the match took place with everybody following the gentlemanly code of conduct expected of them.

The match was between Andy Lamb and Micky Grimes from Highwoods and Rod England and David (Santa) Wilkins from Sweetwoods. Because Andy is a renowned good golfer, he had generously acknowledged giving 6 shots to Rod and Micky and 19 shots to Santa who, with such rich bounty, thought Christmas had come early.

The match got underway and no early nerves were on show as all four boomed drives down the first hole on the East course. A win was quickly registered by Santa using his first shot to good effect. One up to Sweetwoods. Three hard fought halves followed but the putting woes for Santa started to show when he three putted from about 12 feet and failing to use his given shot to make the Highwoods pair pay for their bogey 4s. It was to prove costly with the 5th hole giving Andy and Micky the chance to square the match with Micky’s 5 net 4 proving good enough to win the hole. On the 6th hole, a short par 4, Andy showed his driving prowess by reaching the green (270 yards) with his drive. He put this down to an infusion of bagel power although cinnamon and raisin flavours had little appeal despite his generous offer of one of them for me. Unfortunately, his bagel did nothing for his putting and a half in pars was all he could achieve.It could have been worse as Santa let him off the hook with another three putt.

The next three holes, the last on the front nine, saw a sudden, unexpected and potentially decisive move from Highwoods. On the 7th both Rod (unluckily) and Santa had trouble on the long par five and had to concede the hole and then a knife turned when Andy sunk a massively long putt on the par 3 8th hole for an unlikely birdie 2. It was about 50 feet but by the end of the round claims were made of double or even treble that distance; however long it was, it was a potentially killer blow to the Sweetwoods pair – 2 down after 8. It was to get worse on the next hole which is a tough long par 4 where nobody covered themselves in glory and putting on unsympathetic greens continued to prove challenging. In the end Micky’s 6 net 5 was good enough and after 9 holes, Highwoods were 3 up.

On to the back nine and Andy opened his shoulders with a massive drive over the hill and on the way to the distant green. Micky captured the hole with his third shot (net 2) to about 10 feet from the pin for a solid net birdie to open up a 4 hole lead. Never count out Rod and Santa should have been a warning for Andy and Micky as the 11th with a solid bogey 5 from Rod and the 12thwith a two putt net birdie from Santa saw two holes in a row fall to the Sweetwoods pair. Was this to be a killer fightback? It could have been but the match and fightback stalled on the par 3 13th with Santa on the green off the tee and both Andy and Micky on the beach. Rod was also on the green and not too far away. Micky’s bunker shot was outstanding to just a few inches but both Sweetwoods players managed yet more three putts getting a half by virtue of Santa’s shot. Momentum shifts always happen in matchplay; was this going to be another one? The par 5 14th looked evenly matched until the greenside activity where Andy’s chip to close to the hole was good enough for a par and a win – back to 3 up with the tough 15th to come. Santa was receiving 2 shots and proceeded to dispatch his tee shot into the penalty area, followed by a second so he was out of the hole; On the green, Highwoods had two chances to win the match and spurned both with Rod salvaging a half. On the 16th par 3, water comes into real play and only Rod found the putting surface from off the tee securing a solid par to take the hole although Andy was only a coupel of inches from equalling it. Highwoods now only two up. The 17th hole again has plenty of water to cause trouble but Micky played it safely and put his 4th shot to about 20ft with Santa just a bit closer in the same number of shots. Micky ensured that any further hopes of a comeback were doused by sinking his putt to secure the win by 3 and 1.

The results of the match turned on the putting; i don’t think either side felt happy with their performance on the greens but Andy’s long putt on the 8th and Micky’s final putt were pretty much the difference plus of course Andy’s Bagel Power! It was a good match played in great and sporting spirit and very enjoyable to be part of with no hint of any fighting. Thanks for a pleasant few hours.

Ian Jaggard

President Elect