Day One - The Arrival
Woodhall Spa, venue to the 2008 SingleFigureGolfer Challenge Cup witness a team of nervous SFG's and experienced pro's arrive at what Golf Monthly claims to be 'the best inland course in the UK'.
This year's event is an exhibition match played between two invitational teams and heralds the launch of the SFG (SingleFigureGolfer) concept.
Both teams are introduced to their respective captains, Peter McEvoy (5 time Walker Cup captain) meets and greets Team SFG whilst Jeremy Robinson (former Walker Cup player) looks after his assembled team of battle hardened professionals. Team uniforms for the two days are handed out then it's off to the practise range for everyone whilst Peter McEvoy takes great delight in winding up the professionals in some early mind games.
"Any ideas of a fun knock around with some pro's was immediately banished when, our esteemed captain, Peter McEvoy turned up with the statement 'OK guys, we're here to win - I've just seen 'there' team and they look terrified' - I was up for this!" – Ian Davidson (Team SFG representing Golf Magic.com)
After both teams had enjoyed a light lunch and having made full use of the fantastic practise facilities, battle commenced with both captains announcing their pairings. The format for the first days fourballs and the following days foursomes and singles was match play with the Pro Challenge Team all playing off +4 and a ¾ difference of handicap would determine the shots.
Match one – Oscar Sharpe (+2) & Andy Wool (2) (Team SFG) vs. Paul Way & Steve Richardson (Pro)
The first ball of the 2008 Challenge Cup was hit by Oscar Sharpe, Britain's youngest ever player to be selected for the England under 18's who beat the previous record held by Justin Rose. Oscars drive boomed down the middle of the fairway with his trusty 3-wood and when his partner Andy Wool (representing PowerPlay Golf) did the same is was 'game on'.
Paul Way and Steve Richardson both who had represented Europe in the Ryder Cup were not to be daunted and duly followed suit hitting two great shots onto the fairway.
Sharpe and Wool took an early lead but were eventually pegged back by the Pros who won 3 & 1 with a flurry of late birdies.
Match two – Liam Hannan (8) & Davie Williams (1) (Team SFG) vs. Jim Payne & Ricky Willison (Pro)
The second match started in a similar vein to the first match with booming shots from Liam Hannan and Davie Williams who were determined to start their match in style.
"I'm nervous as hell but loving every second of this!" - Liam Hannan (Ireland, eBay charity winner)
Jim Payne and Ricky Willison were both equal to the challenge and with few comments and steely faces marched swiftly after their balls up the fairway.
With the match level at the turn, Team SFG were to come up against a superb performance by Jim Payne who couldn't miss a put and with his partner Ricky Willison looking on chirping advice and support closed the game our 5 & 4
"We didn't play well today, I thought we were a little over awed but Jim was simply terrific. I reckon he was 5 under for this round" - Davie Williams (St Andrews golf caddie, SFG invite)
Match three – Adam Carson (+1) & Scott Campbell (Scratch) (Team SFG) vs. Roger Chapman & Gordon Brand Junior (Pro)
EGU juniors Adam Carson and Scott Campbell were paired together to play stalwarts Roger Chapman and Gordon Brand Junior and seemed to have the edge when Roger Chapman blazed his opening tee shot out of bounds.
The match proceeded to be extremely tight with only 2 shots in the game at any time. The turning point came on the 17th when a short putt was missed by Team SFG to go ahead in the match after Roger Chapman has narrowly missed his putt. All square down the 18th the Pro team took full advantage of the let-off hitting the green in regulation and winning the final hole to take the match.
The game proved to be a big turning point in day one in a match that McEvoy had predicted the amateurs would win.
Match four – Holly Clyburn (+2) & Richard Latham (+1) (Team SFG) vs. Alison Nicholas & Gary Wolstenholme (Pro)
Match four saw large crowd support for local favourite Holly Clyburn who partnering Richard Latham from Woodhall Spa felt they had an edge with home course advantage. The Pro's had partnered next year's Solheim Cup captain Alison Nicholas with recently turned pro Gary Wolstenholme and from the opening tee shots knew they had a game on their hands.
The match swung both ways and with the game all square down the last and the home crowd becoming more vocal it seemed the match would finish with honours even.
The turning point of this match was on the 17th tee when Holly Clyburn birdied the last two holes to win the match 1 up.
"The highlight of the launch event must have been my eagle on the 9th and then Gary to have one on the 10th, one after the other as well as Alison's eagle on the 6th." – Holly Clyburn (EWGA)
Match five – Ian Davidson (7) & Fred Clatworthy (7) (Team SFG) vs. Philip Walton & John McHenry (Pro)
The final match of the day saw the two rookies, both of whom were competition winners go against a strong pairing of Walton and McHenry who showed no signs of playing this like a pro-am. First tee nerves didn't help Davidson (Golf Magic winner) but his partner Clatworthy (Golf Monthly winner) ensured the pro's had a fight on their hands.
The experience of Walton and McHenry paid off in the end in fading light with the amateurs always fighting hard to stay in the match and finished the match winning 2 & 1.
Day one score – Team SFG 1 – Pro Challenge Team 4
"I felt 3 - 2 to the Pro's would have been a fair reflection on today's play, but I'm confident my team can pull out the stops tomorrow" commented McEvoy.
The Gala Dinner
Peter McEvoy's team arrived a little late as he'd got them together in a private room to discuss the day's event, tomorrows pairings and share some insights into his Walker Cup experiences.
The gala dinner was held at a local hotel and saw players from both teams relax and discuss the days golf. Whilst a lot of the stories cannot be divulged on a public forum and the highlights of the evening came from Steve Richardson who told of hits epic battle with Corey Pavin, Paul Way informing us a spat between Ray Floyd and his wife during his Ryder Cup singles match and Ricky Willison telling all how we couldn't get past security at the Open..... even though he was playing!
With an early start and a glorious sunny day, Team SFG donned their red jumpers and headed for the first tee eager to claw back the match deficit.
Day Two - foursomes (morning)
Match one - Walton & Brand Jnr. (PRO) win 2 up against Sharpe & Clatworthy (SFG)
Sharpe and Clatworthy got off to an absolute flyer of a start in the opening foursomes game with TEAM SFG going 5 holes up early on. However Philip Walton and Gordon Brand Junior had other ideas and with a series of stunning approach shots and clinical putts went on a devastating run of holes eventually turning the match round to win 2 up on the 17th.
"I'm gutted, I thought we had them, but that's why they call them the Pro's I guess!" – Fred Clatworthy (Golf Monthly competition winner)
Payne & Nicholas (PRO) win 5 & 3 against Campbell & Wool (SFG)
Jim Payne continued his superb run of form in the morning game with his partner Alison Nicholas showing a stunning short-game to close out the match in style.
Willison & Wolstenholme (PRO) lost 2 & 1 against Carson & Davidson (SFG)
In a closely fought game, Team SFG took fully advantage of the extra shots Ian Davidson had combining briliantly to give Peter McEvoy a glimmer of hope for the afternoon singles. Adam Carson was once again in scintlinating form helped by an extremely fired up Davidson and despite Ricky's best attempt to gee-up his partner Team SFG came away with a valuable point.
Chapman & Way (PRO) lost 8 & 7 against Clyburn & Hannan (SFG)
This proved to be the match everyone was talking about over lunch. Local favourite Holly Clyburn and Irelands Liam Hannan simply couldn't put a foot wrong in anything they did and produced the most one-sided match of the entire event. Way and Chapman had no answer to the long hitting Clyburn who took full advantage of playing from the red tees and when they did produce moments of brilliance the extra shots from Hannan scuppered them.
"It was simply amazing, Holly and myself gelled beautifully and we were just holing everything" - Liam Hannan
McHenry & Richardson (PRO) halved against Latham & Smith (SFG)
Team SFG had fought hard and were dormie 2 approaching the 17th tee and with Steve Richardson driving his ball into the rough they felt the game was theirs for the taking. However disaster struck Smiths tee shot and he also did the same providing ten minutes of madness when balls were hacked out sideways, pitches then over hit and then Peter McEvoy desperately providing advice to Latham who once again found himself in the bushes at the back of the green. A brilliant chip shot from McHenry ended Team SFG's hopes of finishing the game on that hole and with the game all square going down the last the fairways were lined with nervous spectators.
McHenry hit a perfect drive from the 18th tee only to watch Latham (whose home course is Woodhall Spa) block his shot into the deep rough. McEvoy was on hand in an instant to locate the ball and offer advice to Smith in the best way of moving the ball forward but to no avail as his wedge shot could only move the ball a matter of feet. Latham hacked out but a superb fairway shot from Richardson mean that this game was going to be halved.
Day Two - singles (afternoon)
With the score standing at 6 ½ - 3 ½ in the Pro's favour, McEvoy was still telling his team that the morning had gone better than planned and he could see a narrow victory from Team SFG ensuing. Robinson however insisted that his Pro Challenge Team would white-wash the afternoons proceedings and was still supremely confident.
Chapman (PRO) won 6 & 5 against Hannan (SFG)
Roger Chapman made up for his morning disappointment with a professional display against amateur Hannan making few mistakes and ensured that there was to be no repeat of the mornings result.
Hannan, who was still beaming like a Cheshire cat insisting "I just don't want this to end!"
Walton (PRO) won 4 & 3 against Sharpe (SFG)
McEvoy had high hopes that talented youngster Sharpe could get the better of the experienced Walton and swiftly moved to a four shot lead displaying the characteristics that make him so highly talked about in the amateur game. Walton though stormed back and seemed to play better once again when he was behind and slowly ground out hole after hole to bring the match to all square through the 12th. Once level Walton changed up a gear and produced some stunning shots in front of a good local crowd to close the match out convincingly.
Brand Jnr. (PRO) won 4 & 3 against Clatworthy (SFG)
Clatworthy was determined to win his first point for Team SFG and felt confident going against Gordon Brand Junior that he could achieve this feat. Brand Junior had other ideas though and quipped "You don't get shots on this hole Fred" seconds before his opponents 1st tee shot with reference to the fact Fred received 8 shots. Fred promptly pulled his shot into a nearby tree and with some murmurs amongst the crowd this match was going to be anything but dull. Brand Junior stayed relaxed for the round and edged the game out 4 and 3.
"I absolutely loved it, superb! How do I qualify for next year?" - Fred Clatworthy (Golf Monthly competition winner)
Payne (PRO) won 2 & 1 against Campbell (SFG)
Jim Payne made it a 100% record in SFG events with a hard fought win against the promising England junior International Scott Campbell. A combination of consistent straight hitting and knowing when to take risks in the end proved to be the decisive feature in this match.
Wolstenholme (PRO) won 3 & 2 against Wool (SFG)
Recently turned pro Wolstenholme wasn't about to lose two games in a day against Team SFG and stepped up to the 1st tee in confident fashion against PowerPlay Golf's Andy Wool. Wolstenholme who earned his reputation as a tough singles competitor in numerous Walker Cup matches relished the chance to show his talents. Wool to his credit fought hard and for much of the game was only a shot adrift and desperate for his first SFG point.
Nicholas (PRO) won 2 up against Clyburn (SFG)
It seemed the whole of Woodhall Spa had heard that Holly Clyburn (Woodhall Spa member and England Junior International) had been drawn to play Alison Nicholas (2009 Solheim Cup Captain) as the most watched game of the afternoon go underway.
The match was a joy to watch with Nicholas at one point having a 3 hole lead and needing a razor-sharp short game to bail her out of trouble a number of times as Clyburn utilised her length advantage from the tee. With Nicholas 1 up through 15 the match reached fever point with both competitors holding long putts on the 16th and an amazing up and down from Nicholas on the 17th after putting her ball in the deep rough from the tee. The crowds followed the competitors eagerly down the 18th with Clyburn needing to win the hole the half the match and it looked like she had a chance when Nicholas found her tee shot in the fairway bunker. Unfazed Nicholas played arguably the shot of the day from 150 yards leaving her ball no more than 12 feet from the hole to close out the match.
"Highlight for me was Alison's final match against Holly on the 17th. When Alison was 1up and hit it in the trees, Holly in A1 spot. After much deliberation of to go for the green or not, Alison chipped it out just in front of Holly and made the most majestic up and down from 90 yards away in front of the full crowd. Then she followed it up with an amazing bunker shot from the fairway trap on 18 to secure the match." – Andy Wool (PowerPlay Golf)
Willison (PRO) won 1 up against Carson (SFG)
Up and coming England Junior International pushed the experienced Ricky Willison all the way to the last in an epic encounter.
McHenry (PRO) lost 2 & 1 against Davidson (SFG)
Ian Davidson was buzzing after his victory against McHenry. Fresh from his foursomes victory in the morning Davidson collected his second SFG Challenge Cup point with a stunning victory against the reliable John McHenry.
Richardson (PRO) won 4 & 3 against Latham (SFG)
Steve Richardson's power game proved to be the decisive factor in this struggle between the Pro powerhouse and Richard Latham with his local course knowledge. Tiring a little in the afternoon Richardson or 'Rico' as the crowd were now shouting swept to a victory hitting key shots at the most opportune moments of the match including a near hole in one at the par three 12th.
Way (PRO) lost 5 & 4 against Smith (SFG)
Paul Way continued his dismal day when amateur Graham Smith played the round of his life allowing the former-Ryder Cup star no way back in the final game of the event. Smith seemed to thrive on the pressure and gained an early lead which he retained throughout the match taking full advantage of the 8 shots which Way had to give him. A disconcerted Way who had earlier in the day been thrashed 8 and 7 had no answer to some brilliant golf shots against the inspired amateur who closed the game out 5 & 4.
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