OWGS Grafton Morrish 2013
A report from Nic Gates on a successful but ultimately frustrating Grafton Morrish run ……
“Whitgift arrived at Hunstanton in Norfolk on Thursday the 26th of September in a very good mood. The sun was shining, and unusually the wind was both gentle and helping on the fearsome finishing holes of Hunstanton. We had also been awarded a bye to round two, which benefitted from a very civilised 11am tee time on Friday morning.
The weather, both in terms of sun and wind, remained friendly all weekend, and after a most enjoyable and competitive practice round on Thursday the team was selected by captain Nicolas Gates. This year Whitgift had a very competitive blend of experience and youth. Joining Gates in the experienced camp were Neill Williams and the veteran Martin Hayes, (representing Whitgift for the 3rd time this year following the Halford Hewitt and Cyril Gray outings). The youth were represented by 3 students all studying hard, but also managing to find time for quite a few rounds of golf at their chosen University. Tom Bloxsome, currently at Durham, James Mabbutt, currently at Edinburgh, and Joe Marchbank, at St Andrews, all made the long trip south to Norfolk. The strategy was to pair experience with youth, and the team for Friday morning was to be Williams and Bloxsome out first, Hayes and Mabbutt out second, and Gates and Marchbank out third.
Our first match in the second round was against a strong Bolton team. Williams and Bloxsome showed their quality with a comfortable 4&3 win having never been under any pressure. Matches 2 and 3 were closer, with Gates and Marchbank losing on the 18th, but Hayes and Mabbutt closing out their close match on the 17th with a 2&1 win. The evening review of the day’s golf showed that the gross scores from our three pairs were 75, 76 and 74 which was a good reflection on both the quality of the golf and the weather.
A number of previously fancied schools failed to make it to Saturday morning, with Malvern, Tonbridge, Eton, Charterhouse and Clifton all booking times in the plate competition.
In round 3, Whitgift drew a strong and hotly tipped Glasgow Academy. The combined handicaps of their 6 players was a miserly 4 shots. The pairings remained the same as the previous round with a little shuffle of the order to keep our opponents guessing. Hayes and Mabbutt led the way, with Gates and Marchbank in at number two and Williams and Bloxsome in the third pair.
After an early arrival at the golf club, and some persuasive behaviour that resulted in the secretary very kindly cooking both teams bacon sandwiches, we made our way to the first tee in the beautiful clearing mist and rising sun for our 8 ‘o’ clock tee time. This match was a significantly tougher prospect than the previous round, and the standard of the golf from both sides was very high. Hayes and Mabbutt were quickly under pressure from their opponents, who refused to drop any shots to par on the way out, and despite some good scoring from Whitgift, they eventually lost 2&1. Gates and Marchbank were having some more success in the second match, following an interesting discussion on the first tee when Gates and his opponent agreed that the recognised each other but their advancing years failed to establish where from! Gates was both flattered and slightly disturbed when it was suggested that he might have met his opponent at the Open qualifying last year! An opening birdie at the first, followed by birdies at the difficult 6th and 7th, put Whitgift 3 up early on, and when Marchbank hit his tee shot to 8 foot on the difficult par 3 16th, Gates confidently rolled in the putt for another birdie and a 3&2 victory. Williams and Bloxsome continued their unbeaten partnership that began at the Hewitt earlier this year, and despite two low handicap opponents, ran out comfortable winners with a 4&3 victory, completing a very good 2/1 victory against a strong side.
A measure of the quality of the golf and both teams approach to golf was that all 3 games were back in the clubhouse ahead of the bar opening at 11am. It would be remiss of me not to mention what excellent company Glasgow were, with all three Whitgift pairs commenting what a pleasure they were to play against, with the enjoyable conversations continuing over lunch in the club house before they wished us well and departed.
Following a very civilised break, where we watched our afternoon opponents fight out a comical 18th hole battle of errors, including 3 chips that failed to make the green and one putt from the green back down to the valley on the right of the 18th, Wellington were eventually victorious.
Our 4th round 1.25 tee time gave plenty of time for some putting and chipping, and we arrived on the tee in good time for the match. Gates and Marchbank were out at number one, Williams and Bloxsome were out at pair two, with Hayes and Mabbutt at pair three.
The match was evenly poised from the start. Gates and Marchbank bounced between one up and level through the front nine, with Williams and Bloxsome quickly finding themselves 4 down after some good putting from their opposition, and Hayes and Mabbutt getting to 5 up with a similarly good display. The spectators left the back two matches and concentrated on the top match that was in the balance. A disciplined run of pars from the 10th through to the 14th put Whitgift 3 up and the 15th was halved in birdies to put Whitgift dormie 3 up. A spectacular up and down from Wellington at the 16th kept the match alive, but two excellent pars at the difficult 17th ended a closely fought match with a 2&1 victory for Whitgift. Gates and Marchbank walked back down the 17th, encouraged to see Williams and Bloxsome teeing off on 16, obviously having cut their deficit, but secretly expecting to see Hayes and Mabbutt walking in from the country with a victory in hand. It was clear from the body language as the final group walked up the 15th that there had been a Wellington fightback, but no one expected the match to get to the 16th tee all square. Williams and Bloxsome were finally beaten on the 17th after a disappointing hole, and our attention turned to the deciding match. Whitgift were unfortunate to miss the green on the 16th, but despite a positive chip from Hayes, couldn’t match the par of Wellington. The 17th proved to be our final hole of the competition as Wellington followed an excellent drive with a shot to the middle of the green, and another bogey from Whitgift sealed our fate.
Wellington went on to lose to Merchant Taylors’ in the final on Sunday afternoon, but the close nature of our defeat gives us further confidence that both the Grafton and the Hewitt are within our grasp. We were delighted to blood some new players into the team, and with several more low handicap golfers due to leave the school in the next couple of years, the team should grow even stronger. All three of our youngsters performed admirably, and I’m sure the experience has made them hungry for more.
Many thanks to the OWGS for helping with the costs for the students, and many thanks to Dudley Thompson who very kindly allowed the team to stay in his Hunstanton house yet again.”