Saturday 27 August 2011

The Final Curtain

Well, that's that then.

Somone asked me a tough question a couple of months ago: what have you achieved in your captain's year? I couldn't think of anything but on reflection I'm not sure it's the job of a captain at Bamburgh TO achieve anything. I saw it as more a role of continuity, to encourage and support what works and to try to encourage adaptation where necessary. I think most things work well here and I tried to support them. I've tried to push a couple of things: with Keith I've tried to make the friendly matches more popular by making many of them half day affairs; Nicky and I have tried to increase interest in mixed golf events and lastly the club is going to prepare a policy document for the golf course which will help members understand how the course is managed.

A much easier question was, have you enjoyed it?; or alternatively, will you miss it? Yes, I have enjoyed it: it has been good fun - but although I will miss the parking space I won't miss the role. One year is enough. I saw a quote from a Jeremy Clarkson car review just after I'd started being captain. I thought it was appropriate:

"You don't join a club because it's convenient or because it will save you money. You join so that you can be a member. So that you can be part of a gang. And that, of course, means you are weak.

We see evidence of this among those who play golf. The captain of your local club, I can pretty much guarantee, is almost completely useless at his job and has very few friends. In the real world he is a halfwit, a nobody, a tragic soul with a chip on his shoulder and a family that hates him on a molecular level.

But by being diligent at the golf club, and organising events, he has become a somebody, a person with standing and power and respect. Let me put it this way. Captain Mainwaring would be the captain of the golf club. Wilson would just play golf."

I'm looking forward to being Wilson again.

A final comment. Some things worry me: slow play; walkers across the golf course; they are a sign of selfishness that is probably an inevitable consequence of modern life. But most things don't; the club's mix of membership and its low key approach - and its location - mean we are well placed for a challenging future for golf clubs. So a final thanks to the members for their support of me and more importantly the club over the past year.

Friday 19 August 2011

Last Things

The season is coming to an end at a rapid rate: twelve months ago August 2011 seemed a long way off - a year away, even - but as a number of people had predicted the last few weeks of captaincy fly by. I missed out on the McKeag competition (I had guests to play, but saw a pleasingly large number of people take part) but did get to the final competition of the Workmen's club.

This was the captain's day, with a special "hidden hole" prize, and the Tea Caddy/Purvis Tankard competition which had been postponed last week. This meant we had to record gross, net and stableford scores. The main things I learned about the club, whose annual subscription of £5 is an even better bargain than the main club's, is that the standard of golf tends to be high, that they have good trophies and most importantly they have a prize for last place on their captain's day. Bill Robson was looking smug about this, but he hadn't taken account of my lack of ability (an 11 on the 11th and 4 points on the back 8 must surely be some sort of record) and my 24 points romped home. Of lesser importance, John Moffet and Dan Taylor won the gross and net prizes respectively.

On the subject of good trophies, earlier in the week I presented the prizes for the Junior championship, well organised as ever by Keith Whitfield. Despite a wet afternoon, there was a good entry and Johnny Moffet won the gross competition (the RS Rutter trophy) and Tom Hamilton the net, Alex Mackay being second in both.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Royal Burgess friendly match

I've noted before that we are fortunate to have a regular friendly match with the Royal Burgess Golfing Society, founded in 1735: their clubhouse reeks with the history of the game and they are also very good hosts (albeit competitive ones).
There were some things we did well: we all caught the bus up there. We all remembered our golf clubs and our jacket and tie. After dinner we produced (thanks to Derek and Ken) the best quantity (if not quality) of jokes, with Luigi making a characteristic appearance. And after we said farewell, the bus rocked. (The suspension wasn't great).
Unfortunately, the match was a golf match and there we didn't do so well. Keith and I set off well - we were level after 2. But however much it's meant to be OK to lose to a birdie it isn't really. The half way house was after the 12th hole, and our game was wrapped up by then, but not by us. Interestingly, after a drink of alcoholic Crabbies our game improved dramatically and had there been a bye we would have won it. Peter Hinson and Trevor Thompson did win their game, and John Cairns and Derek Wymes halved theirs, but the others lost. Although the results are roughly equal since the match started 25 odd years ago, Burgess have won the last four. Something to sort out next year...although I had thought we had a pretty good team this year.

This was my last friendly match. They've been good fun - and for someone with a poor weather reputation, mostly dry - but it's not always easy to get teams for them. I've put some effort into trying to change the format to make them a bit more accessible, and most next year will be half a day and a bit more casual. In the end, 39 people played in this year's friendlies, which is good as I also wanted to make them more widely enjoyed.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Tea caddies and coffins

A couple of things to round off the season - I had wanted all year to play in one of the Workmen's events (I would have joined this long before, but they play on a Thursday evening when I have other commitments). It's an important part of the club with a history (as a separate club) going back to 1904. So I turned up for the "Tea Caddy" competition only to find a healthy attitude to poor weather: it had rained all day and so too few people arrived to play. Hopefully I can do so next week.

The day before, I'd gone to Foxton watch the final nail in the coffin of the North Northumberland league this year as they played Alnwick. It was a drab evening but an exciting match: Alnwick needed a decent score to avoid relegation and they very nearly got one - three matches went to the 18th and they were up towards the end. But in the end Foxton won 8 - 4, so winning the league.

(Alnwick are in a play off with Rothbury to see who is relegated; Seahouses join Division A next year, with a play off between Longhirst Hall, Foxton B and Goswick B to see who else comes up. Bizarrely the play off is a stableford comptition; Concerningly none of the three are ideal: Longhirst is in North Northumberland only if you are fairly fluid with geography and I'm not sure it's desirable to have a seven team league containing two teams from the same club. However, the North Northumberland league did agree the former and the latter has happened by default).

Saturday 6 August 2011


Saturday started well but then became a bit wet. So all a sensible golfer could do was sit inside and commiserate with people as they came in and wonder about those who went out.

But I had had a game the evening before, the last of the summer mixed greensomes which took place on a calm sunny Friday evening of the type we'd imagined when we suggested the idea. Eleven people turned up so to keep a relatively simple structure, we had three groups of two teams each; I was a greensome team all on my own. After a bit of negotiation, it was agreed I could have two drives with the loss of one off my handicap. I liked the idea of having two drives and choosing the best one; it's a lot better than that three off the tee stuff. But in the end 34 points wasn't enough to trouble the scorers. There were, however, only two points between the other five teams, with a clear winner with 39 points - Nicky Rose and Malcolm Cresswell and second place decided on the back six -Alison Reed and Will Rose. As before all those who took part enjoyed the game and I hope they continue next year. Malcolm was kind enough to give Nicky and I a specially labelled bottle of wine as a thank you for organising them - "..the best vines avoid The Dinkie...etc.."

And the day before I'd had just as challenging a match, one I'm pleased to say I won despite having to break for the weather half way round. Gil's Ruin, my Black Swan quiz team, had its first annual Crazy Golf tournament. I'm a great fan of the course at Seahouses which I think is good training for normal putting. With these games behind me I didn't mind missing out on Saturday.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Final NNL Match

The weather was perfect and the course looked good for our final league match of the year.

As always a decent group of our supporters turned up but unusually a bunch of people came from Foxton as well: their captain had commented to me the other day that he felt lonely with the number of spectators we provided so he had obviously drummed up support and some caddies for their players. It was an important match for both teams which would probably decide the league title.

Unfortunately, and despite (?) the sugar rush Keith's sweets provided, we got off to a bad start. But we then started to come back and at the 14th tee vantage point all the games were close, with Chris Forrest (a welcome new addition to the team for this game) being in the lead.
They all went to the 17th or 18th, and walking down the 17th with the final game we were all square; we then lost one match and Johnny Moffet needed a good putt to halve his match and leave us with a 5 - 7 loss and a technical chance of still winning the league (rather than a 4 - 8 result which would have meant Foxton would win). And the last putt of our season duly went in for a birdie and a 5 - 7 loss. I got a lift to Alnmouth station afterwards with some of the Foxton team; they had enjoyed the close match and would have settled for a 5 - 7 loss themselves.

2011 final putt..

It was a disappointing result - probably the week before had sealed it against us - because the team had done well for most of the year after a slow start. But at least there's been a proper fight for the league title; the two division split with home and away matches has worked well as has our team. Thanks to Peter Sanderson for being team manager and leading from the front, to regulars Mark Dawson, John Moffet, Johnny Moffet and Angus Smith and the others who took part: Colin Brown, Alex Mackay, John Cairns, John Porteous, Chris Forrest, Peter Hinson and Phil Holmes (apologies if I missed anyone out there). And thanks also to the many supporters.

Meanwhile, in other countries, Garrick Porteous has been selected for England in the Home Internationals played in Ireland next week; he is currently playing in the European Amateur championship in Sweden (the leaderboard is here for the next couple of days; at time of writing he's in the top 10 after two rounds).

Update: he was 9th equal in the European Amateur.

Update 2: England won the Home Internationals, and Garrick was one of only two unbeaten English players over the three days.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

That's golf for you

Actually, it’s life as well.

I watched the Ladies Championship final, played for the Joan Phillips trophy, and as Joan was a distant relation and had originally proposed me for membership I was honoured to present the trophy – to Lynne Johnston, who had played Nicky Rose and won 2 & 1. The match was well supported, close and exciting. Alison Lambert refereed with style and conviction.

It wasn’t all a bad weekend for Nicky – on Saturday, she equalled the ladies course record with a 70. And also on Saturday Peter Sanderson equalled the men’s record of 63 in the Challenge cup, although this wasn’t enough to win as there was a net 57.. But 63 is a pretty impressive result.

I remember the “handicapping myths” I looked at last year when ruminating on handicaps which confirmed that low handicappers generally win – although I continue to believe that our competitions should have a maximum allowance of 18 as a condition of entry (and in this case it wouldn’t have made any difference to the result).

Saturday 30 July 2011

Captain's Trip

You may wonder what that bright thing in the sky is. It’s the sun. It hasn’t put much of an appearance in for events I’ve organised this year, but after 11 months we had good weather for the Captain’s Trip to Dunbar. It was a lovely seaside course –almost at sea level – and by starting at 3.00 we had a reasonable deal and some enjoyable golf. There were 8 groups of 4: unusually no-one cancelled: the 32 who came were the 32 who’d spotted the notice about the trip and put their names on the list. Despite that, not everyone read the notice on the first tee to see which were the nearest the pin/longest drive holes. There was some comment that there was a ball or two nearer the pin on the 3rd than John Shaw, who won: but there could be no doubt that Scott Priestley’s was the longest drive. Most things went well – except that just as I was about to get on the bus I realised I’d left the prizes at home. Fortunately Dunbar sells little bottles of Dunbar-labelled whisky which did duty as a token. And after all, as I’ve often said when I’ve lost, it’s the taking part that counts.
Our group had a mixed round; I had a par at the first: John Cairns took up the challenge for the other 17 holes, and we won our fourball. But we didn’t trouble the leader board – maintained, with my gratitude, by Keith – and Ian Armstrong won with a very creditable 37 points. Ben Galbraith and Scott had 36, Scott winning best gross with a 74. After a drink or two Travelsure then got us home more or less in a decent state.

Hey, there's almost no pictures of me on this blog. So this one can stay.

Thursday 28 July 2011

NNL Match 11

Dunstanburgh Castle, at home. Just as for the Mail on Sunday match at the start of the season, the Dunstanburgh players were there before the home team (unusually so was I). Delay is often a good tactic but it didn't work in an ultimately disappointing evening: it was a glorious evening in terms of the weather, and the first three games went to us, but the last two were much tighter and although John Moffet and Alex Mackay took their games to the 18th green (Alex coming back after being three down after 14) that wasn't quite enough and we drew 6 - 6.
I don't know what it's like to play week in week out in those sorts of matches, but I know it's both exciting and tense to watch. We finished the night 4 points above Foxton who have a game in hand: next weeks match against them at home should be interesting. Interesting word, interesting.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

NNL Knock-out: Foxton

There's a nice bench by Foxton's 7th tee which also overlooks the 6th green and is a small step to the 9th. It meant I could watch the first part of the league knock-out match in comfort without going far yet seeming to be involved and informed. Especially as I kept getting coded texts from the vice captain keeping me updated on what was happening elsewhere (eg H+1,8; J+2,7).
And the front 9 was positive: we were 3 up at the turn. Unfortunately the rub of the green didn't quite go with us and although we won two games quite quickly (one with a chipped in eagle at the long 16th), and could have won two more, things didn't quite work out that way. A large group watched things at the 13th; a very limited number walked up the hill to see the concluding losses.
The good news is that Foxton were beatable; the bad news is we didn't beat them. Maybe next week.

Co-incidentally I'd played Foxton in the morning and found it in good condition, with strange pin positions and very fast greens. I passed on that bit of news as my first (and probably last) piece of coaching advice of the year.