Champeen Mike Dyson
Tim Sugden Tankard Alan Haigh
2nd Prize Roger Thomas
Goat Rupert Shires
Best 1st Round Chris Durrans*
Best 2nd Round Mike Webb**
Nearest Pin 1st Round Charles Webb
Nearest Pin 2nd Round Alan Haigh
Longest Drive 1st Round Mike Dyson
Longest Drive 2nd Round Charles Webb
Lost Ball Sweep 42 - Richard Whiteley
Medication Sweep 49 - Mike Webb
Champion Sweep John Liddiment
Goat Sweep Charles Webb
* Excluding Champeen
** Excluding Champeen & Sugden Tankard winner
The 2023 Goldthorpe Salver was won by Mike Dyson, one of the pre-tournament favourites. Leading by two points after 18 holes, he maintained his form to stretch his final margin of victory to five. Alan Haigh's impressive 37 points in the afternoon confirmed his recovery from both prostate and hip surgery, and earned him the Tim Sugden Tankard for the best 2nd round. Our new champion bowler, Rupert Shires, couldn't recover from a poor first round, and comfortably took home the Goat Prize and the Peruvian waistcoat.
The event was also notable for some unusually glorious weather, an extremely good meal at the golf club, and in a sign of increasing decrepitude, a new sweep to guess the total number of pills consumed each day by the assembled party.
Monday, September 4, 2023 - Fairhaven Golf Club
For the previous seven days the advance party of six had been assiduously perusing all manner of meteorological apps to get a steer on the weather forecast for the west coast, and could scarcely believe that we appeared to be in for an Indian summer. For once, however, the met men got it spot on, with Fairhaven living up to its name, baking under blue skies with only the merest zephyr of an easterly breeze providing relief from temperatures in the eighties.
As we lunched on the patio of the extremely well appointed clubhouse, the Judge told us authoritatively that Lytham St Annes was where people go to retire - a fact confirmed by the presence on the first tee of several groups of elderly members. Yes, even older than us.
But our fears that we might therefore be in for a very slow round proved groundless. Perhaps because of the heat, most of those in front of us only played nine holes, and our two three balls raced round in under three and a half hours, including a stop at the half way house.
Fairhaven, which we last played in 2015, was in fine condition, even if the greens weren't quite as quick as they looked, but with all six players revealing that their handicaps had risen as a result of abject medal rounds two days earlier, the chances of low scoring didn't appear too good. And so it proved. Only the Judge and, surprisingly, John Shires - who had two gross birdies in the first five holes - topped 36 points, and with the Glorious Leader in particularly inglorious form, his threesome, alongside Webb and Shires, was comfortably beaten by Thomas, Haigh and Thornton. Mind you, Jonty did receive a staggering 33 shots.
While waiting for the victors to finish on the 18th, Sambo mentioned to Webb that he would need to get some coinage out to pay the winners. Webb's uncharitable response? "Tell them to f*** off," he said.
Result: (Stableford , two out of three to count): Thomas (39), Haigh (32) & Thornton (31) = 85, bt Shires J (38), Webb M (32) & Sampson (26) = 77
The Glendower Hotel, Lytham St Annes
Due to a complete absence of decent pubs in the area, Shires had booked a small family run Italian restaurant - Un Momento - a five minute taxi ride from our overnight digs at the Glendower Hotel on the Lytham St Annes seafront, and thankfully for him and everyone else, it proved to be a very decent choice.
Tuesday, September 5, 2023 - Fleetwood Golf Club
A first tee time at 9.36 necessitated an early breakfast before a 12 mile drive up the coast through Blackpool to Fleetwood Golf Club. It's a drive that begs two questions: why would anyone voluntarily live in Blackpool, and why would anyone voluntarily go there on holiday?
The town of Fleetwood - connected to its more famous southern neighbour by row upon row of hideously depressing bungalows - is just as tired and tatty, but its golf course, set in low dunes protected by the sea wall, was worth the journey.
At just under 6,300 yards off the yellow tees, it's not overly long, but with deep and very lush semi just off the fairways and utterly impenetrable thick rough, it was a stern test, especially as the north east breeze was to strengthen throughout the morning.
The par threes, all interesting and well bunkered, are probably the highlight of the course, and the degree of difficulty - allied perhaps with a lack of ability - was reflected in the scores, with Webb recording the highest with a modest 33 points. However it wasn't enough to give his team victory, and once again he had to hand over the winnings.
Result: (Stableford , two out of three to count): Thornton (31), Haigh (30) & Shires J (27) = 74, bt Webb M (33), Thomas (29) & Sampson (28) = 71
In keeping with its grim surroundings, the club house has little architectural merit, but the staff were helpful, the beer was good, and the green fees - at £30 with a county card - were ridiculously cheap. A result all round.
Notwithstanding the fact that the toasted sandwiches and chips looked extremely good, it was decided that we would travel a little further north for a late lunch at The Stork at Conder Green, a watering hole known to Sambo and Shires from their trips to the Glorious Leader's former timeshare/holiday bond/scam establishment south of Lancaster with Nicholson and Kaye (see reports past).
With the Judge anxious not to talk about golf in the light of his defeat earlier in the day, he steered the conversation towards what he thought was an interesting discussion concerning the design characteristics of the teapot containing his mid-afternoon beverage. And while it wasn't as interesting as he thought it was, it is indeed true that very few catering establishments offer teapots, or milk jugs for that matter, that can be poured without spilling the contents all over the table - and The Stork is not one of them.
Meanwhile the rest of us were preoccupied gazing at the extremely attractive waitress who served us in the beer garden.
The Isle of Man ferry off Fleetwood GC
By now Wilcox and Butterworth had arrived in Silloth, and were waiting for us at the golf club, where later that night - after checking in at the Golf Hotel - we were expecting to eat a bar meal. Unfortunately, we'd already discovered there was no catering on Tuesday evenings at the club, so there was no alternative but to eat at the hotel.
He's no good at croquet either
Meanwhile Wilcox informed us that he'd recently taken up croquet, and is now a bona fide member of the Huddersfield Lawn Croquet Club, which is headquartered at Greenhead Park. Apparently he plays off a handicap of nine, which sounded rather good until he revealed that the maximum handicap is ten.
Wednesday, September 6, 2023 - Silloth-on-Solway Golf Club
At breakfast - after the usual chat about illnesses, injuries and ailments - the conversation took a gloomy turn, and moved on to the thorny question of assisted dying. The general consensus was that folk should be allowed to choose the time of their own passing, and it shouldn't necessarily be against the law to enlist the help of someone else to hasten them on their way.
However Shires raised a pertinent ethical issue. "Every time I play the Hogsback I express the view that I would like to commit suicide," he said, "but I'm not sure I'd be very impressed if any of you lot suddenly turned on me with a nine iron to give me a helpful nudge towards eternity."
Andrew Sugden had also arrived the previous evening, so with Wilcox, who had been given half a replacement knee earlier in the year, declining to play 36 holes in a day, two fourballs teed it up that morning.
Incidentally, WAS also planned to play only 18 - but for a very different reason. He told us that immediately after the morning round, he would be driving 150 miles back to West Yorkshire, whence he'd come barely 12 hours earlier, for a meeting of the Huddersfield Cricket League, of which he's President. Once the important business was concluded, he would then jump back into his car and drive 150 miles back to Silloth again. This struck the rest of us as utter lunacy - all the more so because the previous year he'd done exactly the same thing and obviously hadn't learned from his mistake.
He couldn't even embark on his 300 mile round trip basking in the glow of victory. With three to play he and Alan Haigh were two up against Jonty and Bill, but they were pegged back and lost it on the final green as Butterworth improbably holed a 20 footer to take the spoils.
In the other match Webb and Shires made the most of the extremely benign conditions to give the Glorious Leader and the Judge a thoroughly good hiding. After three early birdies their better ball score at the turn was two under par gross, and though they failed to maintain their momentum, allowing the opposition to halve the back nine, they still finished only three over par.
Results: Webb M & Shires J bt Sampson & Thomas 5&4; Butterworth & Thornton bt Haigh & Sugden 1 hole
With the rest of the party - Rupert, Liddy, Durrans, the Sheikh, the Prof and the Jock - all arriving in time for lunchtime refreshments on the benches outside the clubhouse, attention turned to the format for the afternoon. And with nobody coming up with a better idea, as usual we settled on two matches between Youth and Experience.
Blue skies over the Silloth Convalescent Home
Over beer and sandwiches our two crown green bowlers - Wilcox and Shires R - took the opportunity to compare notes. When Rupert confirmed that he'd recently bought a second hand set of woods, the former Kirkheaton Strangler said that
Lunch by the putting green
he'd actually been given his by a patient who'd had to give up the game. "Yes", came the chorus: "Because you'd nobbled him!"
Meanwhile, when informed that Wilcox had also taken up croquet, Dyson was heard to reply: "Croquet? That's knitting isn't it?"
Several of the older, infirm or just plain lazy members of the party decided to sit out the afternoon round, leaving two fourballs out on the links, and overall youth triumphed. Charles Webb and Dyson gave Mike Webb and Liddy a bit of a thrashing, while Shires J and Wilcox came back from two down with two to play to halve with Durrans and Shires R.
It might have actually been a win for the oldies had Wilcox - after booming his drive miles down the 5th fairway - not played the wrong ball (actually Shires's provisional) some 60 yards back in the semi. And that despite being asked repeatedly "are you sure that's your ball."
"I'm sorry, I didn't have my hearing aids in," was his excuse. Such are the perils of old age.
Incidentally, regular readers will recognise that Mark is often the butt of many a joke on this website, but they can be assured that really it's a mark of affection. And as he'd said himself at dinner the previous
night: "When you think about it, I do seem to have committed quite a few faux pas over the years."
Results (Youth first): C.Webb & Dyson bt M. Webb & Liddiment 5&3; Durrans & R. Shires halved with J. Shires & Wilcox. Youth bt Experience 1½ - ½
Because the afternoon round took so long - largely because we were held up repeatedly by a party of Scotsmen who appeared to be blissfully unaware of the R&A's Pace of Play manual - there was barely time for a couple of drinks in the bar and a shower at the hotel before we were back at the golf club for dinner.
And what a good dinner it was. A few weeks before the event Sambo had spoken with the caterer, who produced a special menu, which included French onion soup and an apple sorbet before a main course choice of seabass or Tournedos Rossini.
Both were superbly cooked, and although one or two weren't over enamoured with the sorbet, it was comfortably one of the best meals in recent years.
Inevitably though, there was still plenty of debate over the choice of wine; while the majority will sup anything, a number of the party appear to fancy themselves as connoisseurs, which led to the presence of at least four different bottles on the table.
Talking of drink, Mike Webb thinks he's invented a new tipple: Gin and Gunners. As everyone knows, a Gunners is a non-alcoholic drink made with ginger beer, lime and Angostura bitters, perfect for quenching your thirst post-golf on a hot summer's day. It is NOT - as a horrified Judge pointed out - supposed to be laced with gin. (Sounds a bloody sight better to me - Ed)
Later, when the Champions Draw was made, Webb had less reason for self satisfaction; he drew Wilcox, who wasn't even eligible, since he was only going to play 18 holes.
Dinner at the Golf Club
Although the Goldthorpe Salver is undoubtedly a bastion of tradition, never let it be said that members are not open to new ideas, viz. the Medication Sweep, which involved guessing the total number of pills taken daily by the 15 men present this year. Given the ever increasing number of conditions from which we are now suffering, and the fact that your Webmeister had already admitted to consuming nine on his own, Wilcox's estimate of 18 was considered to be an unlikely winner.
"He ought to be taking that many himself for dementia," said Charles.
Thursday, September 7, 2023 - The Goldthorpe Salver
The skies might not have been quite so blue over the Convalescent Home, and there was certainly a stronger southerly breeze than earlier in the week, but conditions should still have been ideal to take the course to the cleaners.
However in the event only three men bettered their handicaps in the morning round. Sheikh Dyson led the way with 39 points from the Judge and Chris Durrans, both on 37.
It was an especially good performance from the scion of the Barnsley blacking empire, considering that he'd had to put up with an awful lot of whingeing from Shires J, who'd been up for quite a bit of the night with violent diarrhoear and had taken the precaution of adding a lavatory roll to his bag (none of which made the slightest difference to his golf, which would have been crap anyway - Ed.)
Bringing up the rear on 21 points was Jonty, but he really was feeling unwell; so much so that he had to withdraw from the afternoon round and couldn't even attend the presentation.
That left the Beast - Rupert Shires - in a precarious position with only 23, two adrift of his nearest challenger for Goatdom, the Glorious Leader himself. Even before the round Rupert didn't appear to be particularly confident. Watching a lady member bunt it 120 yards down the middle of the first fairway, he was heard to say: "I wish I could do that."
"What, Rupert? asked someone. "Wear a dress?"
The middle of the field was relatively congested with Liddy and Mike Webb both totalling 33, Alan and WAS on 32 (well he did get 33 shots!), and the Prof on - for him - a surprisingly disappointing 30. All could legitimately consider themselves still in the hunt were the Sheikh to crash and burn in the afternoon.
It didn't happen. While Durrans and the Judge fell away, Dyson held things together, adding another 36 points to win by five from Alan Haigh, who compiled a superb 38 to land the Tim Sugden Tankard and prove that after his recent health travails, he's fully back in business.
The Webb brothers also impressed in round two with 35 points, which for Charles represented a creditable one over par 73, and mention should be made too of De Sambeau, who came in with a much improved 34 to banish all fears of taking home the Peruvian Waistcoat.
That "honour" fell instead to the Beast, whose 26 points left him bottom of the pile, five behind his cousin.
A couple of on-course bon mots are worthy of inclusion. When Andrew lost his drive in the wasteland in front of the 17th,
The Champeen tees off
he reached into his pocket and said: "I'm going to play another - I've got nothing to lose." To which the Prof and your Webmeister responded in unison: "Well, actually you have, Andrew. Another ball."
As it happened, he then launched his second drive arrow straight down the middle, and announced that it was in fact the first time he'd ever reached the 17th fairway from the tee.
The Beast celebrates points on the Hogsback
Meanwhile on the same hole, Shires sliced yet another effort left and pronounced it lost. Charles was firmly of the opinion that it was in fact only in light semi-rough and promised the former media megastar that if he didn't find it, he'd give him his car, his business and his wife - prompting the slightly off-colour response: "Can I just take your wife?"
And so to the Presentation Dinner in the Criffel Room at the hotel, where we'd been asked to pre-order our meals - a slightly strange request seeing that we were actually given a smaller selection from which to choose than the normal bar menu.
Once the formalities were completed, Liddy announced that the book had, as usual, broken even, although paying out those who'd backed the winner was slightly complicated by the fact that these days nobody has any cash. Cue a few minutes of utter confusion.The evening ended with the familiar discussion about whether we should still be playing the Salver over 36 holes in one day, and there appeared to be a growing consensus that maybe the time for change is almost upon us.
After all, of the 14 competitors this year only two - Shires & Webb - played all four rounds in the two days at Silloth. Taking an accurate temperature of the room is difficult when folk have had a surfeit of booze, but the general feeling seemed to be that perhaps it might be better to play the first round on Wednesday afternoon, and the second round at the same time on Thursday.
Whatever the final decision, it was agreed that September 4 & 5 should be pencilled in for next year's event.
As always, thanks to Sambo for his hard work, and to his credit card for bearing the brunt - temporarily at least - of another excellent week.
Thanks also to the bar and kitchen staff at both the golf club and hotel, and to the greenkeepers at Silloth. It hasn't been an easy year for them, and because of the condition of some of the fairways, we opted to play preferred lies, but the greens and surrounds were in their usual sensational condition.
Some of us were also extremely happy that quite a lot of gorse had been removed!
Roll on next year.
1 Dyson 39 + 36 = 75
2 Haigh 32 + 38 = 70
3 Thomas 37 + 32 = 69
4 Webb M 33+ 35 = 68
5 Durrans 37 + 31 = 68
6 Webb C 30 + 35 = 65
7 Liddiment 33 + 32 = 65
8 Sampson 25 + 34= 59
9 Sugden WA 32 + 24 = 56
10 Butterworth. 27 + 28 = 55
11 Shires J. 29 + 25 = 54
12 Shires R 23 + 26 = 49
Wilcox 0 + 31
Thornton 21 + 0