Golfers at Marlborough College gave a resolute performance to finish runners-up in the West of England Championships 2021.
Contested at Burnham and Berrow Golf Club, the event sees players from top independent schools across the region compete at the historic championship links.
Representing Marlborough were Oscar O (L6), Albie P (Hu), Otto B (L6), Mickey W (Hu) and Hugo H (Sh); a group which quickly gelled to form the best side the College has put out in recent years.
High winds in round one meant a tough examination of seaside golf as players competed in Stableford format to decide their team’s place in the draw the next day. All players were tested by the conditions, finding it hard to hold the ball on hard, bouncy greens. Nevertheless, Marlborough players dug deep to post a combined score of 95 points (top four scores counting) placing them joint second on the leader board; ahead of Monmouth, Taunton and Blundells and dead level with Sherborne who would lie in wait in the semi-finals the next day. Although many players came off the course disappointed, these were conditions to test even the most accomplished golfer. It was vital for players to take on board lessons about the course from day one and apply them going into the knockout stages. With Sherborne having finished on exactly the same points total it was clear the semi-final would be tight…
That evening pupils from all schools enjoyed dinner at the clubhouse, relishing the opportunity to socialise and discuss their matches. Tony Hill (CO 1949–53), whose father founded the event, was in attendance and enjoyed chatting with the Marlborough team, sharing stories about golf and offering tips. The boys were in good company for no one knows their way around Burnham as well as Mr Hill; one of the College’s finest ever players, a stalwart of the OM Halford Hewitt team and past president of the English Golf Union. It was great to see the meeting of Marlburians past and present – and the advice on how to navigate the links was gratefully received by our boys!
Day two dawned calm with clear skies and it was evident that conditions would be far more benign for the Sherborne battle. It was to be a classic. Oscar, leading the team out, quickly found his groove to put together a stunning round of -2 gross through 13 holes, winning his match 6&5. It sent a strong message to the rest of the team who were involved in much tighter contests behind. Albie, playing at number two, was involved in a titanic battle with his opponent and, at one down with two to play, the pressure was on. But showing great nerve to match his peerless ball-striking, he snatched the 18th to earn a crucial half. Behind him Otto was involved in a ding-dong match of his own, nudging ahead on 15 and pressing home his advantage with a thunderous drive down 16, going on to seal victory 2&1. With Mickey going down narrowly in match 4 despite playing some excellent golf the scores were delicately poised at 2½ – 1½, meaning it all came down to the final game…
However, in Hugo the College has a rare gem of a player. Despite being pitted against a much older opponent, he kept trusting in his swing and hitting the ball straight down the middle time after time. He won the 16th to go 1 up but then lost the 17th, meaning for the team to progress he must secure at least a half on the last… Knowing the fate of the team lay in his hands, he stood tall and played the hole beautifully, securing a par on the last to win the hole and the match! He was applauded off the final green by his grateful teammates; a memory that will stay long in the minds of those who were there. The final score in the semi-final was Marlborough 3½–1½ Sherborne which meant we would progress to meet Radley in the final.
It was to be a close run affair: Oscar, once again relishing the opportunity to lead the team out, got off to a blistering start with two birdies on the outward 9 to go alongside seven pars. He would go on to win his match 6&5, posting a vital point on the board early on for Marlborough. It is hard to overestimate the quality of Oscar’s play. Since joining the College in September he has raised the bar for our golfers and at Burnham he was showing he has the kind of game to beat anyone on the school circuit.
Behind him, Albie was battling brilliantly to hold his opponent but seemingly unable to shake him off. He holed a crucial six-foot putt on the 14th to stay level but then won 15 and 17 to take the match 2&1 and post a second hard-earned point for the men in blue and white. Albie has made tremendous strides in his game in the last year and coming through gritty encounters such as these is a mark of his character as much as his undoubted talent.
Behind, the rest of the team were finding the going tough with Radley’s strength in depth beginning to tell… Otto played some excellent golf but could not hang onto his opponent who was having the round of his life. Likewise, Mickey was swinging the club nicely but unable to contain his Radley counterpart. Both boys fought bravely but came away on the wrong end of heavy defeats. It meant for the second time that day the outcome would be decided by Game 5 where Hugo was putting in another gutsy performance. He came back from 2 down on the front 9 to all-square then parred the 11th to take the lead. The dream was on… It was not to last, however, with his Radley opponent coming back strongly over the closing holes to win 3&2. It was a brave performance from our youngest team member and one he should be proud of. Playing this format often means you are pitted against lower handicappers and Hugo had hung in there against the odds – and even threatened to pull off what would have been a sensational victory. His time will come again.
Overall it was a fine team performance and, whilst defeat in a final always hurts, the boys will reflect that they played some terrific golf and gave an excellent account of themselves. Moreover, it was a thoroughly enjoyable two days when many memories and friendships were forged. We congratulate Radley on a deserved win and look forward to our next opportunity to challenge them in this format. My thanks go to all five team members for giving it their all and producing many memorable moments. My thanks also to Mr Patrick Newman for accompanying us on the trip and for his support of the boys throughout.
Until next year…
Master in Charge, Golf