118-IMG_8531_edited.jpg

2020 Report

Champeen                                   Charles Webb

Goat                                                Rupert Shires

Best 1st Round                           Chris Sampson

Tim Sugden Tankard               Alan Haigh

Runner-up                                    Mike Webb*

Nearest Pin 1st Round            Charles Webb

Nearest Pin 2nd Round          Rupert Shires

Longest Drive 1st Round       John Drake

Longest Drive 2nd Round      Bill Butterworth

Lost Ball Sweep                          Steve Sutcliffe

Champion Sweep                      Mike Webb

Goat Sweep                                 Alan Haigh

The Mark Nicholson Prize**  John Shires

*Even though he actually finished fourth

**For "Reaching for the heights but not getting there"

Coronavirus failed to halt the 2020 Goldthorpe Salver, but the weather certainly did its very best to disrupt the tournament. It might not have been given a formal name by the Met Office, but the impending arrival of Storm Bastard - as it was christened on the banks of the Solway - forced the new Glorious Leader to alter the traditional 36 hole Friday format. Nevertheless both rounds - on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning - were still played in extremely challenging conditions, and not surprisingly the cream rose to the top, with Charles Webb winning by a single shot from Alan Haigh.

Monday, September 7.  Slaley Hall

Last year's trip to Slaley Hall in Northumberland was such an unqualified success that it was no surprise that the advance party should return again this year.

It wasn't quite the same. Coronavirus not only meant that we bedded down in single rooms, but it also resulted in the hotel being full of yobs and oiks, clearly bent on enjoying the last knockings of furlough, with scant regard for social distancing. The course wasn't quite as pristine either. The recent rain had left the fairways extremely heavy and wet, and off the white tees the Hunting Course played every inch of its 6850 yards.

Some things never change though, with Shires J and Drake beating Sampson and Haigh 2 & 1. Despite high winds, and the occasional gale force gust, the winners meshed well. Shires had a birdie on the par three 8th, while Drake - who'd hardly hit a ball in anger since lockdown - bore testament to the veracity of the old adage that class is permanent. 

Haigh & Sampson's hopes of saving the match were briefly revived when "Honest John" (Drake, that is) conceded the 13th, declaring that he'd played a stroke on the green when everyone else was convinced that the wind had blown the ball backwards into his putter, but in the end it made little difference as the match was settled on the 17th.

It was probably for the best, as on the stroke one 18th, Sampson hooked his ball well left off the tee. "It's just in the semi," he declared. And so it was - provided that his definition of semi is six foot high reeds.

Shires J & Drake bt Sampson & Haigh 2&1

Another result of the pandemic was that all meals - even breakfast - had to be reserved well in advance, and much to Sambo's chagrin,  the restaurant on Monday evening was fully booked, and consequently dinner had to be taken in the 19th. Although our Glorious Leader's attempts to negotiate a price reduction were rejected, we were reasonably satisfied with the food and wine.

Tuesday, September 8. Slaley Hall

In the return match - again on the Championship Hunting course - Haigh & Sampson looked poised for revenge when they arrived on the 18th tee one up, only for de Sambeau to hook his drive (and his provisional) even deeper into the semi. And Shires didn't even have to attempt to hole his eight footer for par, after Haigh drilled his approach with a three wood straight into the stream that crosses the fairway.

Match halved

Lunch on the terrace overlooking the 9th was spent observing the wide range of tattoos sported by our fellow guests, and wondering whether we were somehow missing out. We concluded we weren't.

With nothing better to do, we decided to play another nine holes in the afternoon, which resulted in a rare win for Sampson & Haigh, who - coming to the 9th and final hole one up - managed to scramble a half when Sambo holed a nasty five footer.

Bizarrely they appeared to think this was far more important than the results in the previous two full rounds.

Later in the evening we learned that a new Coronavirus clampdown would come into force the following Monday. Had it been introduced immediately it would surely have resulted in the cancellation of the Salver - which has previously survived 9/11, a fuel blockade and the Icelandic volcano - for the first time in 39 years.

Wednesday, September 9. Penrith GC

The journey from Slaley Hall to Penrith, where the quartet were to be joined by Mike Webb, Mark Wilcox, Rupert Shires and Roger Thomas, didn't go entirely smoothly. The plan - to drive in convoy on the A686, traversing the scenic North Pennine Moors - was thrown into chaos with a complete road closure half way along the route. Despite locals in the village of Alston advising us that a minor diversion would take us around the closure with minimum fuss, the jobsworth supervising the roadworks told us the only possible diversion involved a 60 mile detour back up to the A69 and down the M6. 

Happily, when he buggered off to make someone else's life a misery, the bloke left behind informed us that, yes, there was a short diversion, and yes, we'd be able to arrive at Penrith in plenty of time.

Once there Wilcox - who would not be driving on to Silloth because of his understandable fears over Covid-19 - decided to make the most of his day out by once again ordering the largest meal on the clubhouse menu.

Wilcox peruses the menu at Penrith (above), with predictable results (below).

Balls were thrown up on the 1st tee to decide fourballs and pairings, and when Shires J. learned that he'd drawn Wilcox - who to be fair hadn't been in the best of recent form - as a partner, he declared: "Oh shit. I've drawn the short straw."

His fears of a monumental drubbing were unfounded as Wilcox knocked it round impressively (he would have amassed 35 points had it been a Stableford competition), and with Shires scoring 2,4,4 around the turn, they came from behind to beat Haigh and the Judge 2&1.

Later Shires was to declare his outburst on the 1st tee "a stroke of psychological genius," as it provided Wilcox with the necessary motivation to escape from his recent slump in form. It was a view with which the rest of the field didn't concur.

In the other match, Drake's birdie on the tricky 12th, where he drilled a three wood through trees to five feet, helped him partner Shires R. to a one hole victory against Webb and Sampson.

Shires J & Wilcox beat Haigh & Thomas 2&1; Drake and Shires R bt Webb & Sampson 1 hole

In the bar afterwards Drake revealed that, while not nearing completion, his 40 year MGA restoration project was at least continuing apace - prompting speculation about how on earth he was going to get the finished vehicle out of his cellar. 

Meanwhile, earlier in the day Shires J. had learned that, in light of the impending change in Coronavirus regulations, the landlady of the Queen's Head at Tirril, where we were due for dinner, had felt it prudent to cancel our booking. There was little choice but to drive straight to the Golf Hotel to eat there instead.

Thursday, September 10. Silloth-on-Solway GC

At breakfast, where the Judge assumed Wilcox's mantle by ordering kippers, and where Rupert asked Mike Webb whether he'd got dressed in the dark (see picture, below right), there was also a discussion about whether competitors in this year's Salver should "take the knee" on the first tee. The general concensus was against the suggestion, on the grounds that most wouldn't be able to get back up again.

The Glorious Leader had taken a phone call the previous day from Andrew Sugden advising him that he would not be able to join the rest on the first tee on Thursday morning, owing to a domestic crisis which necessitated his presence in London instead. He still, however, harboured hopes of making it for the following day.

Accordingly only seven players lined up on the first tee, where balls were again thrown up to determine teams. In some of the most benign conditions we've recently enjoyed at Silloth - ironic, considering what was to come - a fourball (three to count) took on a threeball (two to count & double the second score) in a Stableford competition. 

Scoring was reasonably good: Mike Webb (now off an unbelievable 13 handicap) might have resembled Ted Bovis again, but he didn't play like him, amassing 37 points, with John Shires not far behind on 35. 

Meanwhile there was some controversy over how to describe the trajectory of the Judge's  drives - so well suited to the Silloth links. While he himself favoured the term "a delightful draw", Shires described it as "a slingshot," and given that he's the one who writes this nonsense, "a slingshot" it shall remain.

Incidentally it soon became clear that, despite his accurate driving, it would not be so easy for the Judge to romp to a fifth consecutive victory this year. The reduction in his handicap from 18 to 15 resulted in him managing - by his own standards - a modest 31 points in the morning round.

Shires J (35) Haigh (33), Thomas (31) & Shires R (26) bt Webb M (37), Sampson (29) & Drake (27) by 112 pts to 104

Throughout the week, all eyes had been on the weather forecast, which had scarcely wavered in its prediction that a violent storm, with winds of 40 mph, gusting to 60, accompanied by torrential rain, would sweep across the Solway Firth late on Friday morning.

Having canvassed advice from those who played the morning round, the Glorious Leader, Chris Samps'un took the decision to alter the format of the 2020 Salver.  The first round would be played on Thursday afternoon, and the competition would be concluded on Friday morning - hopefully before Storm Bastard arrived in earnest.

Someone opined that it might be a little unfair on Andrew Sugden and Bill Butterworth, who weren't due to arrive until the next morning. After a moment's reflection this sentiment was amended to: "Well, it might be a little unfair on Bill Butterworth."

And indeed it might have been - had it not been for the fact that Butterworth had decided to play on the Thursday at Pannal near Harrogate instead - thus forfeiting any sympathy. As De Sambeau put it: "He chose to bugger off and play elsewhere, so he doesn't get a vote."

Imagine the mayhem that would have ensued had the late Supremo still been in command of proceedings. As it was, as soon as John Liddiment and Charles Webb arrived from the Pheasant, along with Jonty Thornton, who'd been sailing down in North Wales, Liddy was informed he'd better get cracking on organising the book - a task he performed with his usual efficiency.

Meanwhile with plenty of work to be done sorting out the various draws, Steve Sutcliffe was enlisted as the Glorious Leader's assistant and given the job of writing the name slips - a decision that could have backfired disastrously, with Johnnie Walker, Joshua Tetley and Sam Smith going out together in the first threeball.

Incidentally, there was plenty of speculation that Andrew Sugden had in fact arrived at the club after all, given the presence of what looked like his clubs in the corner of the bar (pictured right).

Towards the end of the morning, what had been a north westerly zephyr had begun to increase in intensity, and by the time the first threeball ventured on to the first tee for the first round of the Salver, it had escalated into a stiff two club wind, making points accumulation - especially on the front nine - a much more tricky proposition.

Even so, scoring was disappointing. Only three reached the 30 points mark: the Glorious Leader (pictured left) led the way on 32, followed by Little Charlsie on 31, and Drake on 30. The Shires propped up the field, with Rupert bottom of the pile on 19, four behind his distant relative John.

 

Meanwhile John Liddiment avoided any chance of Goatdom by ricking his back lifting his golf bag into his car before lunch, and was forced to retire after just a couple of holes in the afternoon.

Butterworth had arrived from Pannal  by the time everyone else returned to the clubhouse, and took the decision to disqualify him from the Salver extremely well, though some said that in the light of his recent record he was probably relieved that he too would not be in contention for the Goat Prize.

Dinner was held in the golf club dining room, where the food was again of a high standard, and - despite social distancing restrictions which meant we ate in tables of four or five - the conversation flowed as freely as the wine.

Friday, September 11. Silloth-on-Solway GC

The previous night Sambo had received a further phone call from Andrew Sugden expressing his profound regret that he would be unable to travel to Silloth at all. Apparently he had been told by the missus that he had to help her babysit their one year old grandchild - news which was met with a measure of incredulity.

He missed arguably the worst weather we have encountered since Castletown on the Isle of Man in 2001; even the most pessimistic forecast was realised.

After the traditional (but socially-distanced) photograph - rescheduled for the morning rather than lunchtime - had been disrupted when the camera was blown off its perch on the flagpole, the Goat party set off into the teeth of a howling gale, and by the time they reached the 7th, the wind was accompanied by horizontal rain.

Any fears that John Shires may have harboured of Goatdom were alleviated when Rupert managed only three points on the front nine - all of them on the short ninth, where extraordinarily, in view of his previous inability to locate the fairways, or indeed the centre of any of his clubs, he was to win the nearest the pin prize.

His playing partners were especially sympathetic on the Hogsback. Both were already lost off the tee, but accompanied the hapless Fixby member as - encouraged by the two shots he received - he slogged his way up the hill to the green, where he three putted for an ultimately pointless eight. He would finish last - and Goat - by a distance.

Even the best were, to put it mildly, inconvenienced by the elements. Sampson and Drake could both manage only 19 points, the Judge 21, and Mike Webb 22. In the circumstances Alan Haigh's score of 28 - compiled mainly on the closing downwind holes - was a positive triumph. Good enough to win the Tim Sugden Tankard, though not the Salver, as Charles Webb's closing 24 gave him victory by a solitary point.

Special mention should also be made of Frank Whiteley, who walked all the way round the course in his chinos. 

 

And when he and everyone else finally reached the sanctuary of the clubhouse, the Covid-enforced closure of the locker rooms meant they had to return to the hotel to change - only to find that the radiators were switched off, and there was no way to dry their sodden gear.

Gradually they all returned to the bar, where after lunch they were faced with a new challenge - what to do for the rest of the afternoon. When the tempest finally abated, Shires J. suggested a putting contest, and set out a demanding course which only Alan Haigh - the sole competitor under par - was able to master.

While the majority kept themselves occupied - and out of the bar - mystery surrounded the whereabouts of Steve Sutcliffe, who hadn't been seen since before the golf started in the morning. Thankfully he reappeared in time for the presentation dinner in the Golf Hotel's Criffel Room, where we were again split into separate tables. 

After toasts to absent friends - even more poignant this year after the sad death of the Supremo - his replacement unveiled a new prize in his honour: a framed spoof magazine front page, found amongst Mark's possessions and thought to have been given to him by his friends John and Sally Birkhead.

The first recipient of the award "for reaching for the heights but not getting there", was your humble correspondent. Whether the citation referred to his golfing ability or his lack of literary prowess - or both - is open to question.

Ironically, since as a non-player he wasn't responsible for any of them them, Sutty won the lost ball sweep, while Liddy announced the book had broken completely even. He'd taken in £86 in wagers, and given out £86 to the winners. Extraordinary.

 

Two of the major prizes were missing. The Goat Tie was still in Andrew Sugden's wardrobe, while Drake had forgotten to bring the Tim Sugden Tankard. Rupert Shires wore a pair of socks round his neck as he accepted Goatdom, remarking on what a pleasurable Friday morning it had been, and appropriately in these strange days, Alan Haigh accepted a virtual Tankard - by way of a photograph of it on Sambo's phone.

And finally Charles Webb celebrated his return to Silloth in style - by donning the check jacket. His acceptance speech was slightly more humble than those of his predecessor; instead  of telling everyone else how crap they are, he admitted that after compiling only 24 points in the afternoon, he actually felt something of a fraud. However that didn't stop him grinning like a demented idiot in most of the post presentation photographs.

After we'd been cajoled by the new Glorious Leader into recording an offensive video message for the missing Durrans, who'd chosen to holiday in Portugal instead, and a somewhat nicer one for the stepdaughters of the departed Mark Nick, it was confirmed that because we're nearly all retired, it would make more sense from now on to hold the Salver over a Wednesday and Thursday, when tee bookings are easier to come by.

No doubt those who want to will still kick off the golfing week on the Monday, with the round at Penrith moved to Tuesday, and hopefully the majority playing another 18 holes on the way back to Yorkshire on the Friday.

Quite frankly it's all such good fun that it makes sense to make it last as long as possible!

As usual grateful thanks are due to everyone at the Golf Club, especially the Greens Staff, who'd provided us with a course in immaculate condition, and to the Golf Hotel, who coped so admirably with the Coronovirus restrictions that it scarcely made much difference to our enjoyment of another splendid event.

FINAL STANDINGS

 

1      Webb C              31 + 24 = 55
2      Haigh                  26 + 28 = 54 
3      Sampson          32 + 19 = 51

4      Webb M             29 + 22 = 51
5      Drake.                 30 + 19 = 49

6      Thomas             26 + 21 = 47
7      Shires J.             23 + 22 = 45
8      Thornton            24 + 14 = 38

9      Shires R.             19 + 10 = 29

        Butterworth          No show + 18

        Liddiment              Ret injured +13   

Goldthorpe Salver

© 2020 Goldthorpesalver.com. Proudly created with Wix.com