Winter Pairs Final – Report

Winter Pairs Final – 2016

Report by Bill Brown

The temperature gauge in the car showed double figures but outside it felt nothing like that. A cold cheerless day greeted the Winter Pairs finalists with a cutting northerly wind making the conditions challenging to say the least.

Seasoned campaigners Alan Rylands (playing off 8) and Ian Saunders (10) were pitched against Warren Elliott (19) and John Tyrrell (21). The low handicappers had been in matchplay finals before and could be considered the “form” team but that needed to be set against Warren coming off the back of a highly successful season in 2015 and he and John benefitting from a very useful handicap advantage. Shots were taken against Alan’s handicap of 8 with Ian getting 2 shots, Warren 8 and John 10.

The scale of the task facing Warren and John was apparent from the start with Alan’s drive ending up just 25 yards off the front edge of the green! It needed a good response and got one from Warren with his pitch finishing at the back of the green 25 feet from the hole. He then putted down to 2 feet and, with Alan unable to capitalise on his magnificent drive, the hole was halved in regulation par 4’s. The first significant move came at the 2nd hole. After 4 good drives Alan put his second to 12 feet but Warren , with a quite stunning 9 iron, pitched in to no more than 12inches for a conceded birdie 3. Alan’s putt threatened the hole but didn’t drop to leave Warren and John with their noses in front at this early stage.

And they did it again at the 3rd ! There were shots available to Warren and John here and they made it pay. Alan, with a lovely 5 wood second pin high on the fringe of the green, and Warren on the green in 3 nett 2 seemed to have it between them. Nobody, it has to be said, was paying much attention to John who had put his 2nd into the front left bunker and splashed out only a few yards leaving himself still well short of the green. His next shot however , a beautiful little chip, went bolting into the hole for 4 nett 3 birdie to put his side 2 up after 3 holes.

You just knew that the fightback would come and it duly did at the 4th . It came courtesy of some outstanding recovery play from Ian who, with the other 3 players on the fairway , found himself in the right hand fairway bunker. What followed was extraordinary. A shot from the sand of perhaps 150/160 yards, a pitch to 12 feet and a putt which never looked like going anywhere other than the centre of the hole for a 4 nett 3 birdie and a win which got him, and his partner, back to only 1 down.

And that fightback continued at the 5th. With Warren and John both in the left hand bunker off the tee and in trouble the low handicappers saw their chance to strike again. Alan was already on the green in 2 shots when Ian played his 2nd from just 10 yards short of the front bunker and pitched in to 4 feet. There followed the almost inevitable birdie 3 and the match was back to all square. That meant that 4 consecutive holes had been won with birdies – high quality stuff!

They couldn’t keep that going and didn’t. The 6th hole was halved in conventional ways with Alan and Warren rolling up 20 foot putts to very close for a half in par 3’s. Still all square.

The 7th followed a similar pattern with Alan and Ian on the green in 3 shots and their opponents on in 4 nett 3. Everyone had a chance of a birdie from between 12 and 20 feet but all were unsuccessful and another hole was halved in par.

There followed 4 attempts to get onto, allegedly, the easiest hole on the golf course. Only today in the absolute teeth of the wind it was anything but easy. No one made the cut surface and after chips down towards the hole all 4 players had to settle for a 1 over par 4. The match, at this stage, still nicely balanced.

Things started to move again at the 9th where shots were available to Warren and John. Alan, after 2 lovely shots, was just 15 yards short in 2 with John a similar sort of distance away in one more. The chips onto the green would be vital. Alan’s third rolled on a little further than he would have liked to some 12 feet beyond the flag but John managed to coax his ball to within 12 inches for a 5 nett 4 . Alan’s saving putt for the half missed by a whisker which meant that at half way Warren and John were, once more , 1 up.

Up the hill the 10th hole was showing its teeth in the really strong wind. None of the players could get near the green in 2 shots but Alan , giving shots to the other 3, put his next shot to 2 feet beyond the flag. Neither Warren nor John could do better than 6 nett 5 and the door opened for Alan to bring the match back to all square. The tricky little downhiller just slid past and Warren and John must have felt relief at the escape. Still 1 up.

That relief could have lasted only for a few moments. Playing first, at the 11th, neither was able to get near the green from the tee and their opponents took full advantage. Both players hit their drives onto the green with Alan only 12 feet away and a few seconds later he duly trundled his putt down to a few inches for the win and the match back to all square.

The first signs of the momentum shifting came at the 12th where Warren and John were getting shots. John managed a perfectly respectable 5 nett 4 which unfortunately for him and his partner wasn’t enough. Ian, after a huge drive, contrived to put his second to within 2 feet of the hole and holed the birdie putt to put his team in the lead for the first time in the match.

The 13lh hole in the wind was playing very long and it was testament to the purity of their striking that both Alan and Ian were able to find the front of the green with their third shots. It was clear that ,with their shots, the other two had to try and resist this attack to avoid falling further behind. To his eternal credit John did just that. Alan holed a six footer for their par 5 and under great pressure John got down in 2 putts from 25 feet for a 6 nett 5 and the half. It was clear to this observer however that the low handicappers now had the bit firmly between their teeth.

And so it proved at the 14th. After a monstrous drive round the corner from Ian, his second only needed a pitching wedge to the heart of the green with no one else making the cut surface. His putt to close out the hole was rolled up to within 2 inches to now give his side a 2 hole advantage.

Further damage to Warren and Johns chances followed at the 15th. Warren, with a 7 foot makeable putt for a 5, could only stand and watch as Alan holed a beautiful 12 foot birdie putt for a 4 to put his team 3 up and 3 to play.

The last big chance for Warren and John to strike back came at the difficult 16th where both were getting shots. The opposition however, were having none of it and were simply merciless. Ian’s third shot from 60 yards ended up 18 inches from the hole and his par 4 was enough to win the hole and the match by 4 and 2.

Just one or two observations on the match:-

It never had the feel of an easy 4 and 2 victory – the match was still on a knife edge after 13 holes.  Taking into account the odd concession Alan and Ian’s gross better ball score for 16 holes was level par – some going at any time but excellent in those conditions.  The match continued to demonstrate the high quality of Seniors Section golf at Ramsdale and as usual it was played in the loveliest of spirits.