Sheffield Unionof Golf Clubs
It was a bright, cold day in November… and after the hooter sounded at eleven for a Remembrance Sunday minute’s silence, play got under way at Fulford as a travelling Sheffield team took on the Rest of Yorkshire.
It was a fixture which defies official description, designed as competitive get-together to benefit 24 of Yorkshire’s best golfers with the season proper now nothing but a pleasant memory.
The format for the day, as suggested by 2016 Yorkshire President Jonathan Plaxton, proved an inspired choice in making the day enjoyable, productive and memorably exciting.
A blank draw was made for twelve singles matches (in fourballs, to emphasise team-building) played on a holes-up basis, with the cumulative total deciding the outcome. Confused? So were many of those present to begin with, but as a greater understanding of proceedings took hold during the day, so did the realisation that the contest was becoming unfeasibly close.
With a format that demands games to be played over 18 holes, much of the significant action came in various games that would have been concluded some time previously in conventional Matchplay. Nathan Fell, for one, took advantage of the five holes that he would otherwise have been deprived the opportunity to play by reducing his arrears to four down to James Cass. Fell’s birdie at the 18th was one of many that assumed greater significance as the darkness and drama enveloped the final green.
From Sheffield’s point of view, impressive performances from the Sams Bairstow and Rook, and Abbeydale’s Tim Brind established an early advantage. This was built on by outgoing Captain Neil Stones with a comeback win against Luke Robinson.
The Rest of Yorkshire had the better of the middle order, with George Heath and Damon Coulson both bringing in three-hole victories. With one group left on the course, the score for completed games was dead level. Matt Evans finished three up for Sheffield; Jamie Harrison was three down coming up the last. Still dead level.
Harrison, on the green for three at the par-five, faced a fifty-foot putt. He sent it speeding through the gloom with what appeared unnecessary force; then ten-foot out it began to track towards the hole. At the last it caught the edge and spun out at 90 degrees. It left Michael Hay with a twenty-five-footer to win the match for the Rest of Yorkshire, but when this drifted off to the right the result was the most improbable of ties.
432 holes of golf played by 24 of Yorkshire’s best golfers had come out all square. “It seems bizarre after all that not to have a positive result,” said captain Stones. “But it wasn’t all about that, it was about getting the players out and competing and bonding at a time when they don’t normally have the chance to do that.
“Above all, we’re enormously grateful to the Yorkshire Union for making the day happen. It’s certainly been useful for us, and I’m sure it has for them as well. And really enjoyable, too. I hope we can make a regular thing of it, though what the odds are of it finishing level again are is anyone’s guess!”
Jamie Harrison feels the cold at Fulford.