This saturday, I teamed up with Rakash to play the Volvo pairs matchplay. We faced off to Ben Hunter (HC 3) and Simon (HC 13). Ben is probably the lowest ever handicapper I have ever played in an amateur matchplay. With 3/4 handicap difference available, RaG and I got 16 HC, while Simon got 8. I was hoping that this weekend would end with a different result than last week’s singles matchplay.
We got in on time. RaG had warmed up with a quick 9 hole on Shey in the morning. However, that was belittled by Ben and Simon turning up after playing 18 holes at Pirbright. Looked like I was the only one looking a bit rusty on the first tee box. Below is the match summary.
#1 (P5): Simon went first and hit a decent fade with some good distance. Ben went next with one of the longest drive I have ever seen. It went miles and with a very aggressive line, landed on the fairway way past the dogleg. My first shot of the day was not too bad, but started to gain a bit of an unplanned fade towards the end. It ended up near Simons. RaG put a big hook on him, and just missed the bunker on the 3rd hole. After that I hit a couple of trees and was never in contention. Ditto for RaGs, and we lost the first hole as soon as both Ben and Simon landed their second shots within chipping distance.
#2 (P3): Simon ended short on the left while Ben went into the bunker at the back. With the pin placed up and towards the left, there was little margin for error as the greenside bunker is on the left. I hit a decent 8-iron, and ended just short of the greenside bunker. RaG sliced onto the third hole on Shey, and was out of contention straight away. Simon had a double contact on his chip and Ben executed a flawless exit from the bunker. I chipped well and then putted to par and win the hole.
#3(P5): Shortlived joy for me, as I topped my tee short to see it dribble into the long grass before the ladies. RaG got some distance, but could not get his slice. Lost ball. Ben and Simon were coasting.
#4(P4): Ben opened his shoulders to show us the art of hit a 300+ yard monster. Simon got reasonable distance on his tee, and I matched his distance. RaG also had a decent drive and was starting to feel upbeat. With about 200y to go, I pulled out my hybrid. It has worked in the past, but not today, as I saw the ball get airborne and then disappear into the long grass. RaG got a decent second shot, but did not hold his nerves after seeing Ben deposit his second shot on the green. The lead was increasing.
#5(P4): Simon topped his tee and did not go past the ladies, however Ben’s monsterous drive, got a bit of slice but went miles. RaG had a great drive to set him up with a beautiful approach. My drive was ordinary and gave me a tough approach. RaG capitalised on his drive by hitting a beautiful second shot that got his just outside the green. After much searching, we found Ben’s ball. While all of us expected him to push the ball, in a brilliant display of the short game, he showed us how to hit the ball over the tree and get it to die on the greens. What chance did we have against this. RaG did not hold his nerve and saw his chip run away down the far side. To his credit, he chipped and putted well to help tie the hole. It was good to see RaG among the winners list
#6(P3): The steep downhill P3 is a very interesting one. Simon ended on the left hand side greenside bunker, Ben in the one on the right hand side. High on his win on the previous hole, RaG promptly dispatched his ball OOB on the left hand side, while I was the only one to get onto the green. I two putted to keep the fight alive.
#7(P4): The curse of the winning hole, came into play, as the wind picked up and deposited my ball on the mounds on the right hand side. RaG and Simon hit two flawless drives, only to be out driven by Ben who had now started playing his 2-iron!!!! A masterclass on how to play the wind. I nearly pulled off a miraculous rescue, only to clip a tree and get out of contention for the hole. RaG soldiered on and nearly tied the hole again, but we had a lost another one.
#8(P4): The wheels were coming off my game, as I saw another slice on my drive. I searched for my ball, and spent some time with the local fauna (see pic).
#9(P5): Decent drive by me was followed by a poor second shot. However, some decent recovery from me saw us lose the hole by a shot. The lead was upto 4 holes.
With daylight between our scores, we stopped for a quick bite, as RaG kindly bought some food. Unfortunately, being a busy course, we could not sit down to enjoy it. So we hoofed it to the 10th.
#10(P4): All drove well, but RaG and I hit poor second shots to see our ball end either side of the green. I chipped back while RaG struggled for control. We lost the hole by another stroke. The misery continued.
#11( P4): Simon and Ben went right, I went left, while RaG went extreme left in to the long grass. With RaG out of the equation, I hit a poor second shot to come short of the green. Ben rolled into the right hand bunker while Simon hit the green. However, I did an up and down to win the hole. There was a flicker of hope.
#12(P3): Hit the green in regulation about 15 feet from the green. Simon and RaG found themselves near the bridle path on the left. The accuracy of Ben came handy for him as he ended up between me and the flag. I had a horrendous putt as I stopped short of the hole. A bogie from me meant, we had lost the hole. The flicker was turning out to be dying embers.
#13(P5): With the tees moved to the left hand side of the bridle path, it created an interesting angle. Simon’s tee shot looked like it went past the white OOB markers. Ben’s tee did not create any such questions, as it sailed over the trees onto the #14th. They guests conceded gracefully, I guess they were being gracious J
#14(P4): I topped my drive, but got some reasonable distance on it, which was promptly matched by Simon. RaG was short but all of us were outdriven by Ben and his 2-iron. Second shot from Simon found the green while Ben was just outside the green. I probably hit the best 8-iron all day, to see myself about 5 feet from the hole. Held my nerves on the putt to win another hole. We were starting to stage a bit of a comeback!!
#15(P4): Another drive, more wind and another slice… I ended just short of the trees on the right. The other three shot about the same distance as me. My recovery shot saw me go right into the rough; Simon went left into the rough; Ben’s aggressive line saw him in the greenside bunker; RaG shot himself out of contention. A perfect pitch shot saw me next to the flag, while Simon failed to hit green and Ben got onto the green. Some accurate putting under pressure, got me another hole!! Indeed a comeback.
#16(P3): The uphill p3 has eluded me for the past six months. RaG saw his ball tickle past the ladies. I was determined to break the jinx, so pulled out my 4 hybrid instead. Unfortunately, got underneath the ball and saw it balloon but stay on the fairway. Simon got into the greenside bunker, while Ben was just short of the green on the right. This would have been a lost hole, if I hadn’t hit a perfect pitch and got a lucky bounce. The ball ended about 5 feet from the hole. Ben then showed his ability to read the green perfectly as he nearly holed his 20 footer. Given my stroke advantage, Ben conceded the hole. The lead was now cut down to 1 with 2 holes to play. There was a flicker of hope now!!
#17(P5): Another bugbear of a hole for me. My drive went right creating a very difficult angle for me. Fortunately, Ben also matched me. Simon went left and saw his ball roll off the fairway. RaG whose mind was already playing the finals in Portugal duffed his drive and second shot to get out of contention. With Ben and me having a difficult angle, there was a chance to equalise. However, Simon pulled off a blinder with a difficult uphill that set him up very well for a third shot. Ben and I chipped out and saw our third shots on opposite sides. I was behind a tree, and this meant I need a few more shots to double bogie the hole. Ben was out of contention once he got into the long grass. In a heartbreak moment, when we least expected it, Simon bogied the hole to claim the hole and the match. It was a great fight back but we lost 2&1.
#18(P3): With the match lost, we played the last hole. RaG and Simon got anywhere near the green while I topped mine and Ben went into the greenside bunker. RaG and Simon tied the hole, but there was no fight left.
Overall it was a great day out and it was pleasure to watch (and play) how a low handicapper would approach the game. We did fight back and it went to the wire. Ben’s approach lines were far more aggressive and his ability to shape the ball and hit really really far makes me want to be like Ben when I grow up 🙂