18 Sep Captain’s Prize Winner
Andy Wade came through a medal round and three rounds of match play to finally claim the Captain’s Prize. Returning to a former format the Captain, once again, has shown the will to mix it up when it comes to competition. Refereeing the final himself amidst a final day stableford for the rest of field, the culmination of some serious graft saw a 5&4 victory on the 14th for The Cockney Bandit.
The eight qualifiers had battled it out throughout the following two weeks and left us with a semi final of Joe Tomlinson v Stuart Priestley and Andy Wade v Niall Gaffney. Having seen off Centenary winner Adam Gibson 2&1 with some steady play and superb wedge work, Joe applied the same to Stuart. Fit for a final Andy Wade’s match v Matt Edwards was a superb dual. Almost toe to toe with each shot Andy still found himself 3 down after three. “I remember feeling quite calm and knew I was playing well, so just said to myself to keep going and the chances will come”. And so they did and by the 16th Andy was 1up. After Matt’s putt on 17 hit the flag and popped away – who knows if that flag wasn’t there – the hole was halved and it was a fine birdie on the last that sealed the win for Wade.
And with Joe Tomlinson safely in the final it was down to Niall Gaffney and Andy Wade for the last spot. Niall had beaten double major winner Rob Watkins with an outstanding 2&1 victory. That same form was applied in the semi and after going 2 down after two holes Niall had turned it round to go 1up at the turn. But the next three holes belonged to Andy hitting 10 & 11 in regulation and making the most of playing to scratch. “I knew 10 & 11 were the key”, said Andy. “I just needed to keep to my game. He [Niall] was playing so well and I was looking at birdies to win holes but we were off scratch on those two holes and I needed to win them”. After claiming those two and a wayward drive from Niall on the 12th it was 1up to Wade as bad light stopped play. The resumption saw Andy pick up where he left off and by the 16th was 3up but a putt for the halve he needed stopped 6 inches short and so, with some solid play, Niall won the next two holes to send the pair back down the 19th. After coming up a little short on his second, Niall left Andy with a 3ft par putt to win and he duly obliged. “After the missed putt on 16 I had a feeling I’d need the 19th. A soon as he was on the green in two on 17 it looked like only birdies that would be enough. Giving shots to a form player is really tough but I was confident it hitting that green in two”.
The final, marshalled by the Captain, was very tight affair in windy conditions. Both parring the 1st, it was Andy to go 1up on the 2nd but then back to all square after a lost ball on the 3rd. But from then on in mistakes from both players were rare. With Wade just 1up at the turn it looked like it could go all the way but a short shot on the 10th from Joe gave the Cockney Bandit the advantage – a lead that was never relinquished. A 20ft putt from Tomlinson on the 11th saved a half but a card of gross pars on the back nine saw Andy 4up by the 14th. A 60ft putt from Andy and a slightly heavy chip from Joe left them both with a putt from 15ft. The Cockney Bandit rolled that it and Joe’s just shaved the hole. Of his win Andy said, “I just looked up to the sky and was buzzing. It was a bit surreal. Joe played really well but I felt confident about it as soon as I got through the semi final. In a way that was the hardest part and I felt much, much freer going into the final. Being given a couple of shots after giving away ten helped psychologically but I felt mentally strong and was really focussed on what I had to do and trusted my swing. Once I got in front there was no way I was giving it up.”
There was another winner on the day. Jonny Robertson cemented what has been a fine season for him by winning the round 2 stableford competition for the rest of the field. A 37 sees his handicap drop again well into Tiger territory. He beat Chris Godfrey in a card playoff.