MEN'S 1ST TEAM AWAY TO ESSEX, L TO R, JASON MITCHELL, LUKE COLGATE, TONY WILKINS, JACK SLATER, JAMES SURRIDGE, LAURIE OWEN, BEN HARMAN & CAPTAIN ALEX COLLMAN
REPORT BY MEN'S 1ST TEAM MANAGER LOUIS MATAMALA:
The Men's 1st Team lost their unbeaten record in the South East Group league on Sunday (1st July), when they were defeated 8-4 by a strong Essex team at Chelmsford Golf Club.
After 9-3 victories over both Middlesex and Bedfordshire, hopes were high within the team of a positive result against Essex, despite a poor record in Essex and last year's loss to our near neighbours and rivals at Hadley Wood fresh in the memory. Essex had also started the season with two victories out of two, so it was fair to say that this match looked all the while like a potential title decider. The same side was selected for the Essex match that soundly defeated Bedfordshire at The Millbrook last month.
The match was played on the undulating Chelmsford golf course, which was new to most of the squad. At just under 6000 yards, par 68, it is not a long course at all, but certainly not easy and provided a good test for the match. Like most courses right now due to the exceptional weather it was running fast and firm, which made club selection and lines off tees vital to good scoring. The greens which are renowned in the area for their pace were (rightly so) being protected by heavy overnight irrigation and were actually fairly benign, which could have taken an element of home advantage away from Essex, of which 4 of their team of 8 were home members.
The morning however did not go to plan from a Herts perspective. Essex took a lead in all of the matches and once ahead would stay there. 3 of the morning matches ended on the par 3 15th green with solid 4 & 3 victories for the Essex pairs. The only match to go beyond this was the Laurie Owen and Jason Mitchell pairing for Herts, against the Essex pairing of Ali Plumb and Callum Pipe. With all eyes on this match and Essex 2 up with 2 to play it looked like Essex would take a clean sweep of the morning foursomes. On the front of the 17th green in 2 and with opposition already in for a regulation par, Laurie Owen holed a 30 foot putt to extend the match to the last! Jason would then hit his tee shot to the front of the par 3 18th green while the opposition found the left side bunker, from which they would hit a fine recovery out to around 6 foot. But Laurie once again dug deep and rolled his 25 footer to produce an Ian Poulter-esque reaction and give us something to cling onto for the afternoon singles. Score at lunchtime, Essex 3.5 - 0.5 Herts.
The afternoon singles were much tighter and in all honesty could easily have gone either way, but we certainly made a match of it and at points gave Essex a real scare. The top match pitted Laurie Owen after his morning exploits against Michael Gilbert on his home course. Laurie acquitted himself well but when he 3 putted the 17th green the match was lost 2&1. Herts would then win the next 3 matches, Luke Colgate was very convincing in his 5&4 victory over Will Percival of Orsett, arguably one of Essex strongest players over the last season or so, Jack Slater maintained his 100% record in singles for the county this year (1st Team or Colts) when he defeated Essex Captain Andy May of Boyce Hill on the 18th green with a nerveless short putt to seal victory. Some real fireworks were to be seen in match 4 with Ben Harman taking on Ricky Lee of Boyce Hill. Ben would start with two birdies in the first 4 holes only to be 2 down! Ricky would start with four consecutive birdies! Despite this Ben did well just to stay in the match and aided by a -5 back 9 would win the match on the 17th green 2&1. In match 5 County Champion James Surridge played some sparkling golf to lead by 4 holes at the beginning of the back 9, but was pegged back to just 1 hole by the 17th by opponent Callum Pipe of Orsett. The hole would prove key in the match as Callum hooked his tee shot to within inches of being out of bounds, but would chip out, hit an excellent approach shot to 6 feet and calmly holed to win the hole after James' approach had come up short and had failed to get up and down. So the match was level and despite both making great efforts for birdie on the par 3 18th, both players would make regulation pars and the match was halved and Essex had enough in the bag to claim victory. At this point we needed the 'tail to wag' but unfortunately it wasn't to be as Essex would win all the remaining 3 matches on the course to further press home their title credentials.
Congratulations must go to Essex who once again proved they are the team to beat in the Northern division of the South East Group and now look odds on to win the division once again.
Our last league match of the season will be at the end of the month (Sun 29 July) on home ground once more at Hadley Wood against BB&O, in what looks like a match for the runners-up position. Even so we'll be looking for a positive end of the season and all eyes now fall upon the Men's Qualifier, the 'Big 6', on Saturday 14th July, back in Essex at Orsett GC, where we'll be hoping to go one better than at Sheringham last year were we narrowly finished in 2nd place behind the eventual National Champions Hampshire.