Champeen John Shires
Runner-up Roger Thomas
Goat Andrew Sugden
Best 1st Round Charles Webb*
Tim Sugden Tankard John Shires
Nearest Pin 1st Round Chris Durrans
Nearest Pin 2nd Round Bill Butterworth
Longest Drive 1st Round Charles Webb
Longest Drive 2nd Round Bill Butterworth
Lost Ball Sweep 32 - Bill Butterworth
Champion Sweep Roger Thomas
Goat Sweep Bill Butterworth
* Excluding Runner-Up
2021 will be remembered for the best golfing weather at Silloth for many years, a surprise winner in your humble correspondent, and for Mark Wilcox's potentially life threatening encounter with the chef at the Golf Hotel.
Monday, September 6, 2021 - Ulverston GC
An advance party of four - De Sambeau, Shires J, Webb M and Wilcox - broke new ground with a round at Ulverston, a parkland course near Barrow in Furness overlooking Morecambe Bay, with Webb and Wilcox replacing John Drake and Alan Haigh, both of whom were unfortunately medically incapacitated.
As Shires and Webb passed Al's Butties - a greasy spoon mobile catering van on the A590 dual carriageway just short of Grange over Sands - they spotted two familiar looking figures at the counter. "I'm sure that was Wilcox," said Webb. "He was wearing a blue shirt and shorts, and looked like a golfer." There was a brief pause before both chorused in unison: "Until he gets on the course."
Ulverston proved to be a decent choice. An interesting course with spectacular views; occasionally quirky, but not too challenging, in good condition and well worth another visit.
Ultimately Wilcox surpassed everyone's expectations - including his own - by partnering De Sambeau to a one hole victory, which might have been even more comprehensive, given that they had been four up soon after the turn. As one might imagine, Webb did not take this unexpected reverse with good grace, remarking, after De Sambeau had celebrated winning the par 5 fourth with a somewhat fortunate birdie: "I presume you meant to dunch your third, then."
Wilcox gets the furniture out
Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - Penrith GC
During breakfast, which was eaten al fresco in view of the glorious weather, De Sambeau proposed what he thought was an inspired plan to drive to Penrith via one of the most scenic routes in Britain - Hardknott Pass.
And on the following par 3, he complained churlishly after Wilcox had hit his tee shot onto the green (pictured): "We're playing against a man who takes a wood on a hole measuring less than 150 yards. I think we should walk in."
Result: Sampson & Wilcox bt Shires J & Webb M by 1 hole
Monday night was spent at the Dunes Hotel just outside Barrow, which resembled Crossroads Motel but turned out to be considerably better than it looked, with friendly staff who served a very acceptable meal and rather more alcohol than was strictly necessary.
The Dunes Hotel
It's a single track "road" running West to East (or East to West if you're being pedantic) right through the middle of the Lake District, and apparently it vies with Rosedale Chimney in North Yorkshire for the title of the steepest in England, with both achieving a gradient of 1 in 3 (about 33%). We can confirm that it is very scenic indeed, but it's an understatement to say it isn't very quick. Such was the concentration required to keep their vehicles on the road that Shires and Wilcox had no time to take in what were undeniably spectacular views, and what should have been a journey of 75 minutes via the motorway, or 1 hour 45 minutes via Windermere and Ambleside, actually took the thick end of three hours, giving rise to serious doubts about whether we'd arrive at Penrith in time to have a drink and a sandwich before teeing off.
The summit of Hardknott Pass
After various withdrawals, Rupert Shires was the only man due to join the advance party, and he was already half way through his sandwich and about to order his second pint when the others finally arrived, relieved but saddle sore after their epic journey across the roof of England.
On this occasion, the catering at Penrith left a little to be desired. When Webb inexplicably ordered a toasted currant teacake (for lunch, for heaven's sake), one of the kitchen staff was hurriedly despatched to buy some in, but apparently returned empty handed. His second choice of soup was off the menu as well, so he elected to go hungry.
You have been warned!
The waitress was so embarrassed by it all that she gave Webby a Mars Bar, which he ate on the course, along with another that De Sambeau bought in the pro's shop.
As for the sandwiches , the chef appeared to take the view that the thicker the bread, the less the need for a filling. Thankfully there was nothing wrong with the Loweswater Gold.
Regular readers will remember that the previous time we were five at Penrith, we devised some hideously complicated format, whereby all five went out together, but only four played at the same time, with a different man dropping out per hole. Given that it was not deemed to be a success, we plumped instead for simplicity - a three-ball (Webb, Sampson & Wilcox) and a two-ball (Shires R & J) playing a Stableford competition.
Whether as a result of the extreme heat, or perhaps a warning on the first tee that snakes had been spotted on the course (see picture), the scoring was poor, with Webb accumulating the least derisory total, a mere 32 points. Shires J was particularly distressed by an attack of the shanks, although thankfully he realised (too late) what was causing it. "I was standing too close to the ball," he explained in the clubhouse. "Yes, after you'd hit it," came the entirely predictable response from everyone else.
Result: Webb M 32 pts; Sampson 31; Shires R 29; Shires J 28; Wilcox 24.
In lieu of a monetary prize, which no one thought he deserved, Webb - who's partial to a biscuit or two - was later presented with a packet of Maryland Chocolate Chip Cookies, which, seeing that they've never been spotted again, we assume he guzzled himself.
Another one gets away
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Seven players took to the course in the morning. Andrew Sugden and Roger Thomas had arrived the previous night, and although the course was busy - Wednesday is apparently a popular members' roll-up day - we were able to get away on time at 9.30, with a 3-ball teeing off against a 4-ball in a team competition.
After the usual high speed drive from Penrith to Silloth - surely one of the finest A roads in the British Isles - no one was surprised to find that Steve Sutcliffe had arrived on the wrong day, and even less surprised when he went to sleep during dinner in the bar at the golf club.
Conditions were absolutely ideal. Some of the fairways might have been parched and a little bare, but as usual the turf had a welcome 'give', and the greens were superb. What's more, there was hardly any wind at all, and it all added up to some decent scoring. Wilcox and Webb both had 40 points, while Shires J gave a glimpse of what was to come with 42, including three birdies, and claimed rather vaingloriously, that had the Salver been played that morning, he would also have won the nearest the pin and longest drive prizes as well.
Special mention should also be made of Andrew Sugden, whose much publicised golf lessons appeared to be paying off. Teeing off first in a bid to catch the rest of us unawares, he amazed onlookers both with the length of his backswing, and by the fact that he got the ball airborne. As he propelled his drive down the middle of the fairway, the cheers rang around the Silloth links. He went on to record 17 points on the front nine, and finished with 32 - admittedly off a course handicap of 30.
Result: Shires J (42), Wilcox (40), Thomas (42) & Shires R (32) [3 to count] bt Webb M (40), Sampson (32) & Sugden (32) [2nd man doubling up] 132 pts to 122.
Another one straight down the middle!
By the time we'd returned to the clubhouse for lunch, the sun - hidden by hazy cloud for the first nine holes - was beating down remorselessly, and Chris Durrans, John Liddiment, Bill Butterworth and Jonathan Thornton had all arrived for the afternoon round, soon to be followed by Richard "Jock" Whiteley, who was quick to offer his opinions on Scottish politics in general and Ms Sturgeon in particular.
After lunch 11 players set off in blazing heat, split into two 4-balls and one 3-ball - again playing a team Stableford. Scoring wasn't quite so impressive; only five managed to get into the thirties, with Wilcox astonishingly avoiding every bunker on the course to top the pile with 38. It would have been even better had he not faded late on, scoring only three points over the last three holes. Mind you he didn't fade as badly as the Judge, who amassed a paltry seven points on the back nine.
Even so, Roger's team ran out winners, led by De Sambeau with 36 and Webb M with 35. Incidentally, after being delayed at a funeral in Huddersfield, the Prof arrived in time to play the last four holes.
Result: Sampson (36), Webb M (35), Shires R (30) & Thomas (21) = 115 pts; Wilcox (38), Durrans (31), Shires J (29) & Sugden (24) = 110 pts; Liddiment (28), Butterworth (28) & Thornton (20) = 97 pts.
So good was the weather that when we returned to the club after ablutions at the Golf Hotel, we were able to have pre-dinner drinks outside; a good start to an evening marred only by a disagreement over the merits of the red wine ordered by De Sambeau. Durrans in particular took exception to the perfectly decent New Zealand Pinot Noir that we'd enjoyed the previous night, and instead predictably ordered a more expensive bottle (or three), which knowledgeable oenologists amongst us deemed to be inferior in every way.
Before the customary draws and laying of bets, an executive decision was taken that no money should change hands in respect of the matches earlier in the day. The Judge, who'd been on the winning team in the afternoon complained bitterly, but in view of his pathetic contribution to the victory, no one took him seriously.
Later, when the salmon pink 40th anniversary polo shirts were ceremonially handed out, it was spotted that the Golthorpe Salver motif was on the right breast, rather than the more conventional left.
This prompted a lengthy discussion. Was it simply a mistake? Or was it because that's the way ladies' shirts are made, and the manufacturers assumed - because of the colour - that we were a bunch of extremely large women? A quick trawl of the internet failed to support that particular theory, and given that the buttons line up like a man's shirt (ie: on the right), it will probably remain a mystery. Of course, if anyone's to blame it's Mike Webb.
Either way, there was absolutely no need for Andrew Sugden - on receipt of his extra large garment - to strip off and model it there and then in the dining room (see pictures).
Thursday, September 9, 2021 - The Goldthorpe Salver
The forecasters had predicted a change in the weather overnight, and unfortunately they were accurate. But thankfully, although there was a hint of drizzle in the air as we made our way to the Golf Club, there was absolutely no wind and Silloth was once again as benign as possible, with conditions again ripe for great scoring.
It was no surprise at all, then, that The Judge at last got his 'A' game together, and - with the help of two putts of at least 35 feet, including one for a birdie and four points on the stroke two 7th - amassed a superb 43 points to lead after the first round.
Equally predictably, the Prof - now playing off 1 - knocked it round in a gross 69, to be second with 40 points, with Durrans on 39 and Shires J in fourth place on 37. At one point in the first round, after he'd expressed disatisfaction at pushing an approach a couple of feet adrift of its intended target, his cousin Rupert asked him: "John, would you say you're a perfectionist?" "Yes," he replied. "Then you must live a miserable life," opined Rupert.
Meanwhile Sugden's recent improvement curve was beginning to look more like Boris's Covid Sombrero; by now he was very much on the downward slope. On the first tee he had proudly produced a brand new coloured ball, only to be advised: "Don't get too attached to it."
Good advice too, as it turned out.
A couple of lunchtime conversations are worthy of repeating. During a discussion about the perils of alcoholism - conducted as it happens over beer and sandwiches - retired osteopath Wilcox confirmed our suspicions about his medical knowledge by stating authoritatively: "I think it's a genital condition."
And when it became obvious that he would be going out in the Champeen group with Charles Webb, who was sporting an unusual line in spectacles, the Judge complained: "I can't play with a man who wears sex offender glasses."
In the end though, it wasn't the Champeen group that produced the Champeen. Both the Judge (32) and the Prof (33) faltered in the second round, leaving Shires J to storm to an unlikely victory with 40 points. Had he known that he was on the cusp of winning, there's absolutely no doubt that he would have blown it, but thankfully Whiteley - who was accompanying the final 3-ball and clearly knows a thing or two about golf - kept relaying the news that Roger was scoring rather well, so Shires was able to complete his round in blissful ignorance.
When it became clear in the clubhouse that he was in fact the winner, his roommate Webb M was heard to ask: "Does anyone want to swap?"
The new Goat Waistcoat
As usual the Presentation Dinner was held in the Criffel Room at the Golf Hotel, where, it has to be said, we were served with a meal of execrable standards. In fact it was so bad that when Wilcox and Webb popped outside for a sly cigar, and met a couple of blokes also having a quick drag, the former Kirkheaton Strangler embarked on a lengthy rant about the appalling food. Having lambasted it as the worst meal he'd ever eaten, he asked the pair: "Are you staying here as well? Are you cyclists?"
"No," one of them replied. "I'm the chef."
The final group on the 16th
An angry man
Regular readers will remember that last year Andrew Sugden forgot to bring the Goat Tie; in fact it now transpires that he's lost it. Never mind, he brought a splendid new garment to be presented to the crappest golfer. A bizarre multicoloured Peruvian waistcoat, modelled here by last year's Goat, Rupert, before he handed it over to the latest recipient. Yes, you've guessed it - Andrew Sugden.
Meanwhile John Shires's self-effacing victory oration - chock full of humility and modesty, as you'd expect - gave him a long-awaited opportunity to turn the tables on multiple Champion Roger Thomas.
"For years," he said, "the Judge has been lecturing us on the benefits of tee-totalism and the evils of drink. Well, my spectacular triumph after four pints of cider and a glass of wine at lunchtime, while he crumbled disastrously as a result of supping nothing but water, is surely proof - if any were required - that he needs to drink more beer."
Before retiring to the bar, Liddy announced that the book had made a £10 profit. In fact he revealed that the only outcome that would have caused a loss - and a catastrophic loss it would have been too - would have been if Jonty had won. He was never really too worried though.
Finally De Sambeau announced that next year's Silloth Week will start on Monday, September 5, with the Salver itself staged on Thursday the 8th.
Friday, September 10, 2021
With Rupert setting off early for the fifth and final Test Match between England and India at Old Trafford (unlucky Rupert!), Charles leaving for the St Leger at Doncaster, and three others opting to put their aching feet up at home, it left a party of seven to travel down to Blackpool to play a final round at Herons Reach.
It may have been initially designed by Peter Alliss, and indeed it has several interesting holes - many of them featuring water - but there are several amongst us who wouldn't want to return there. It's a pay and play hotel course, and with the bar shut when we arrived, the only place to purchase any refreshments was a Starbucks in the hotel reception. The fact that our fellow golfers that day (mercifully behind us) included members of the Ricky Hatton Boxing Club, tells you all you need to know. Tattoos - tick. Shirts outside shorts - tick. Black socks - tick.
As for the course, unlike Silloth the turf had a rock hard and unforgiving base, and although the greens were in decent condition, the tees were decidedly scruffy; in fact on one or two you were lucky not to break your ankle down a rabbit hole.
Webb and Wilcox might have been relatively happy with Sambo's choice, but that was probably because they won.
Result: Webb M, Wilcox & Sugden beat Sampson, Shires J, Thornton & Thomas by a considerable margin.
And that brought an end to another memorable week. Thanks as always to Chris for his faultless and patient organisation, to the weather gods who smiled on us every day, to the team at Silloth Golf Club, who again fed and watered us superbly - not to mention preparing the course so well - and a qualified thanks also to the Golf Hotel for putting up with us, as well us putting us up.
Here's to 2022!
John Shires 37+40=77
Roger Thomas 43+32=75
Charles Webb 40+33=73
Mike Webb 33+35=68
Chris Durrans 38+30=68
Bill Butterworth 30+35=65
Chris Sampson 29+32=61
John Liddiment 25+34=59
Jonty Thornton 29+29=58
Rupert Shires 24+33=57
Mark Wilcox 27+29=56
Andrew Sugden 27+24=51