Sheffield Unionof Golf Clubs
Thirty-nine over par may not sound to be a winning score. However, such were conditions at Cleveland on Sunday that not only was it enough to take Sheffield to victory in the Inter District Team Championship, but it represented some high quality, and determined golf, from six very tired but elated players.
The record sixth successive win was possibly the most impressive of all, for the preceding week had seen nothing but setbacks. After defeat in the final league match of the season, two of the first choice six withdrew. Nathan Fell suffered a back injury, and Lewis Hollingworth fell victim to a debilitating virus. With neither Bailey Gill nor Alex Fitzpatrick (who had dismantled the same course in winning the Yorkshire Amateur only two weeks previously) eligible to play, Captain Neil Stones had to dig deep into his reserve list.
In Jamie Harrison, who nobly rearranged his existing plans, Stones had a Yorkshire regular to step in. Beyond that, it was a question of calling up a stout middle aged man, and Stones’s predecessor, Richard Hodgkinson, returned to the six-man team for the first time since 2012.
True quality will always show, however, and this was exactly the case with Nick Poppleton and Matt Evans, whose morning rounds of 68 and 70 respectively kept Sheffield in the hunt as conditions worsened as the day progressed. At halfway, a tight field was jointly led by Sheffield and Leeds with morning totals of 449, and no more than 10 strokes covering the entire field.
“It’s carnage out there,” was the summary of Bradford’s (non-playing) Captain, Martin Gaffney, as vicious winds ripped across the course in the afternoon and sent scores soaring. Possibly Sheffield’s greatest strength at this moment was the formidable team spirit which gave added resolve to the players, and which was never more evident than at the par three 12th.
An ad-hoc Committee Meeting was assembled, as Secretary Graham Needham, President John Reynard and Team Manager Martin Brewis converged on Hodgkinson’s tee shot, which had landed just a few yards away from them in thick rough. It took several minutes to find the ball, but find it they did. The result was a streaky par; suitably boosted, the veteran covered the final six holes in two under par and recorded a respectable 76.
This score was matched by Hallowes’ Sam Bairstow, playing in his first Team Championship, whilst Harrison battled to a 77 and Stones to 79. The mark had been set not by Leeds, who drifted out in the afternoon, but by the host union, Teesside, the only team to improve on their morning score in round two. Sheffield’s two plus-three handicap men, Poppleton and Evans, proved their invaluable worth to the side by both posting second round 73s, a score not bettered in the afternoon.
It all amounted to a two-shot victory – 903 against 905, Leeds finishing a distant third on 921.
Poppleton’s outstanding total of 141 (-3) saw him take the individual honours, and meant a clean sweep of trophies for Sheffield. The inspirational Captain was naturally delighted. “What a day. What a week. What a season, in fact. I can’t thank the players enough. Every one of them today just gave their all to every shot, and that’s what gets you across the line in these conditions. You can easily get frustrated and fritter a shot or two away through frustration, and that, in the end was the difference between winning and losing.
“But it’s been the same throughout the whole season, just out and out commitment from everyone who has played. We were all gutted for Lewis [Hollingworth] who wanted to play, but he’s been really poorly. I hope this makes him feel a bit better.
“I certainly feel good. I’m absolutely knackered. But I’m chuffed to bits as well.”
Delighted winners: (l-r) Richard Hodgkinson (Lindrick); Team Manager Martin Brewis (Wortley); President John Reynard (Sitwell Park); Captain Neil Stones (Wheatley); Matt Evans (Phoenix); Jamie Harrison (Rotherham); Leading Individual Nick Poppleton (Wath); Sam Bairstow (Hallowes).
A season's booty: The Captain with his Team Player's medal, the YIDU League Trophy and Inter District Team Championship salver.
Wath's Nick Poppleton with the Best Individual Trophy