Cyril Gray Report – by Tony Mason

So close! Agonising is the word to describe it. Read Cyril Gray captain Tony Mason’s account of the 2013 competition (below), and you will appreciate why.

One of the problems with the ‘Old Man’s Halford Hewitt’ is that fitness is a commodity that cannot be taken for granted. For some time the selected team had been Martin Hayes, Alan Scovell, Tim Leonard, Peter Hedges, Nigel Durance and Tony Mason. However the week before tee off the team that was ‘fortes in papyrum’ (strong on paper!) was struck by an injury described as a torn lateral meniscus. A quick Google search by your correspondent revealed that this was a knee injury – sounded far worse! Therefore at the last minute that ageing superstar Tony Blok came to the rescue of the team.

The practice round on the Wednesday was very enjoyable – all in good spirits and golf to a satisfactory/good standard; the play of Hedges P. was as usual sublime (33 on the back nine in practice is not too shabby!) and it was great to have him in the team after an absence of a couple of years. We were first off the following morning at 8.20am against City of London. This meant an early start in order to navigate the M25 in good time; the opponents were not as well organised and the 6thplayer failed to arrive in time for the 3rdpair to tee off so under the rules of the competition, the match had to be conceded despite the fact that the hapless City of London player arrived red faced on the second tee. Result Scovell and Mason – W 18/0!!

In the first two matches Hedges and Blok at 1 and Hayes and Durance at 2 both won by convincing margins. Scovell and Mason claimed a moral victory having won the ‘friendly’. A 3/0 victory saw the team into the second round on Friday morning against Brighton who had beaten a strong Epsom team in the first round.

Another early start – when you are at the top of the draw sheet that is where you stay! The pairings were changed with Hayes and Durance at 1 and Hedges teaming up with Scovell at 2. Mason and Blok brought up the rear. All matches struggled on Worplesdon’s easier front 9. The first two matches were pretty much level pegging at the turn but Mason and Blok were 2 down. Whitgift gradually drew away in the first two games with Hayes and Durance winning 3/2 and Hedges and Scovell winning 2/1. By the time these results were known there had been a remarkable turn around in the 3rdmatch where Blok and Mason covered holes 10-16 in level par to demoralise the opposition into a 4/3 defeat. Another 3/0 victory set up an afternoon meeting against the very strong Fettes side; they had been in the final in 5 of the last 8 years and won the competition 3 times.

Plenty of time for a relaxed lunch and a 2pm tee off. There had been doubts in the morning about Nigel’s back which was causing him (and the rest of the team) much concern. An early morning call had lined up Martin Down to stand in for the afternoon if needed; Peter Blok was already carded to stand in for brother Tony if we made it through to the afternoon as Tony’s knee was giving him some serious aggro (see what I mean about fitness!!). As it was Nigel’s back came through the morning round without ill effect so he was able to play.

He and Martin in the first match struggled against good opposition and they lost narrowly on the 17th. Hedges and Scovell played consistently to run out 4/2 winners so it was all down to the last match. Mason and Blok were never down to strong opponents allegedly playing off handicaps of 1 and 3. An eagle on the par 5 15thput them 3 up with 3 to play. Victory against the odds seemed to be in the bag. Or was it?!

Bogies on 16 and 17 meant that Whitgift were 1 up going down the tough finishing hole; both teams were by the 18thgreen in two but Fettes were in a deep bunker with no green to work with. Blok chipped up; he went long but then the Fettes man put an almost impossible shot a foot from the hole leaving Mason with a steep downhill putt on the frighteningly fast Worplesdon greens to halve the hole and win the match – he missed (by a considerable margin it has to be said) so it was sudden death down the 19th.

Fettes drove first  – long and straight down the middle. Mason followed suit but walking up the fairway towards the green there was only one ball visible. It was the opposition’s! Another 30 yards on was the Whitgift ball which had cruelly rolled into the back edge of a bunker 60 yards from the green. A valiant effort by Blok left the ball still 15 yards short of the green with Fettes pin high and 20 feet away from the flag in two. Fettes duly rolled in their putt for a birdie proverbially snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – a catastrophic and sad end to a game and a match that should have been won.

For the second year running we lost a match that seemed to have been won but foursomes golf is a harsh and unpredictable format where matches can turn on the slightest error. Our luck must change so we look forward to next year with the hope that everyone is fit and that we have a little luck on our side!

Tony Mason