England Golf Seniors County Finals
Rothley Park Golf Club, Leicester
3 – 6 October 2022
In the summer at Bristol & Clifton GC Wiltshire Men's Seniors qualified to represent the South West Counties in the England Golf Senior County Final.
This was the first ever appearance at such event and a huge achievement for the County.
Once the Channel League season was completed it was time to prepare.
Selection of the team was relatively straight forward although a couple of commitments played havoc. A 60th birthday adventure to New York put paid to one selection and work commitments to another.
The rules of the competition allowed for there to be an eight man squad from which six would be chosen to play in three foursome matches in the morning and six singles in the afternoon. These could change from morning to afternoon and from day to day.
The squad: Simon Dymoke (North Wilts), Colin Edwards (Cumberwell), Martyn Evans (North Wilts), Chris Graham (Ogbourne), Al Paterson (Tidworth), Mark Snape (Tidworth), Jez Tomlinson (Marlborough) and Mike White (West Wilts).
By the time the selections were made it was confirmed that the three other finalist were Kent (South East region), Warwickshire (Midlands) and Yorkshire (North). It was obvious that Wiltshire were going to be the underdogs with the other three Counties having reached the final before together with the fact that the next smallest County to Wiltshire had twice as many clubs in their Union. (Yorkshire has around 7 times as many clubs!)
Rothley Park Golf Club, located just north of Leicester, is over 100 years old and is a parkland set up. The course has par four holes ranging between 251 – 457 yards, two par fives and just three par threes to make up the rest of the 18 holes. Together with the up and down nature of the terrain, smallish undulating fast greens and some severe run offs this was a brilliant match play venue.
Wiltshire usually play in white shirts but having been issued with extra red shirts we decided that we would be wearing these for the practice round. This had a knock on effect that the electronic score boards from then on always showed us as red which really stood out. It also explains our team photo taken after the practice round.
Just the match against Yorkshire, (Probably the pre tournament favourites) as an introduction and it was obvious that there were a few nerves about. It didn’t show in the results of the drives off the first tee but for example Mike White couldn’t find his trolley after he played!
Our morning foursomes sent a little shockwave around the clubhouse at lunchtime, Wiltshire won two of the three matches!
Mark Snape had the honour of holing the winning putt on the 18th for the first ever point for Wiltshire in the EG Senior County finals.
The afternoon didn’t go quite as well but with a win and a half the resulting 5.5 – 3.5 loss was an encouraging start.
Considering the disparity between the two Counties, both in size and experience, this was a good result especially the foursomes win. It definitely made the other two teams sit up and take notice.
The two winning teams from day one play the two losing teams. Therefore next up was Kent, maybe the second favourites for the title. This format is intended to set up the leaders in a playoff on the final day.
Today the biggest problem was the weather. Forecast of strong winds and rain didn’t arrive until lunch time and, as luck would have it, we were inside when the heaviest rain hit. The other match, out first, had to suffer the dreadful downpour.
We hadn’t read the bit about the two winners in a playoff on the final day and just to prove that Tuesday wasn’t a fluke we ran away with the foursomes in the morning. Mike and Mark, Jez and Colin strolled to wins with Al and Simon winning two of the last three holes for a half, another fantastic morning together with another ripple running through the clubhouse at lunchtime.
Four of the afternoon single matches played the 18th hole from which we won 1.5 points but with Jez’ fourth win out of four it was enough to secure Wiltshire their first ever triumph in the Seniors County Finals, a truly historic moment. It also set up the final day beautifully.
The final day had three Counties in with a chance of winning the title, only Warwickshire were out of it, although they were determined, as the hosts, to record a win. We needed Kent to beat Yorkshire and for us to beat Warwickshire by a better score in order that we would come out on top and, can you believe it, this so nearly happened.
A changed to the team saw Martyn and Chris to come into the foursomes for their debuts and in a brilliant match won the last hole to win . I’ve heard it many times but this time it really was Chris’ Robbie Williams moment (Take That).
With a win from Mike and Mark and a half from Colin and Jez, again we won the morning foursomes, winning 7 points from a possible 9 in this format overall.
Today the singles went our way with 3.5 points won and could have been just a touch better had Mike’s opponent, Warren Bladon an ex PGA player not chipped in on the 18th for an eagle and a one up win. Again 4 matches went down the 18th but with wins from Simon and Jez (again) Wiltshire recorded the biggest win of any match, 6 -3.
We had done what we had to in getting a very result and with half an eye on the other match I knew things were very close. At one point Kent were leading but for much of the afternoon it looked as if there may be a halved match. This would mean that Yorkshire would still be Champions but on countback having beaten Wiltshire in the first match. As it happened the tail wagged and Yorkshire won the match 5-4 putting the result in no doubt.
Final League table
Every player made a contribution to the final score, Jez 5.5 points out of 6 an outstanding achievement, the best of any player there.
I want to thank all of the players for their, support, (not just to me but to each other), their tenacity, ability and their company in what has been a historic few days for Wiltshire Golf. They represented the County in a way that gained support from the locals and impressed the officials and I received many compliments on their attitude and demeanour.
A special thanks also go to Dave Barbour (Tidworth) who, for logistical reasons, couldn’t attend for the entire period but was there for the important moments, for his support and commitment to the team. It was also a pleasure to see County President, Frank Ham in attendance at the beginning of the week.
This event is the pinnacle of County Seniors Golf and for Wiltshire to qualify and be in with a chance to win on our first appearance is a magnificent achievement. It has given those who attended a taster of what can be achieved, our sights should be firmly on qualifying again and again.
The organisation of the event was first class, from England Golf to the Club Officials and staff, nothing was to much trouble. The course was excellent and for four days the only members on the course were those that were volunteering at the Final or turned up to spectate and who did so with a smile and very good humour.
The standard of play was exceptional, although there was the odd ‘iffy’ shot, and the spirit, camaraderie and friendship pervading the whole event was great to be part of.
I have no doubt that this has been the highlight of my golf life and I can stand down as Captain with an immense amount of pride and satisfaction.
Kingsdown Golf Club
Wiltshire Golf Men's Seniors Captain