After a relatively quiet month in June, I seem to have been continually on the move in July, with three away matches and a visit to St Andrews – for The Open. All of these events have been wonderful and involved meeting lots of different people.
The first event involved accepting a kind invitation from the South East region to take part in their annual match against the French managers (ADGF). It is usual for these matches to be played on courses ‘just across the Channel’. However, this year the match was played at Golf Barriere La Baule on the west coast. This is a huge complex with 45 holes: Green course (9), Blue course 18) and Red course (18) – and included a hotel in which both teams were staying. Unfortunately the hotel was on the opposite side of the course to the sumptuous clubhouse and, as only two of the team had cars, meant a lot of walking before play. None more so than on the last day, when players had to carry their baggage with them, as we were leaving immediately after the golf. As this was the 10th anniversary of the matches, the hospitality of the French team was somewhat overwhelming with the courses good (Red the best) and the food excellent. To a certain extent the result hardly mattered, but over the two days GCMA narrowly prevailed.
The second match occurred immediately upon my return from France and after landing at Gatwick on the evening, I was required to be at Aberdovey GC to play in the match against the Welsh managers by noon the following day. A somewhat arduous proposition, but I was fortunate to be driven to Wales and so could relax on the way. It has been some time since I last played Aberdovey GC but the venue matched my memory and was in excellent condition, with the match being played in the most benign, sunny and warm conditions. As usual, the very competitive match was played in a true sporting manner with the fact that the English managers achieved a narrow victory, while pleasing to me as Captain, did not detract from the camaraderie at the excellent after-match dinner.
The third match involved visiting Sweden to play the annual match against the Swedish managers (GAF) on three courses in the Stockholm area: Saltsjobadens, Osterakers and Vidbynas. The friendliness of the welcome, both from our opponents and staff at these venues, was fantastic and when adding in the quantity and quality of the food, provided the most wonderful environment in which to stage this event. On top of this we were playing on very good courses, in excellent condition despite the fact that the Swedes have suffered the same dreadful summer as most of the UK, with little in the way of hot days. Overall a good time was had by all despite, from a GCMA point of view, a considerable margin of victory for the home side. My wife, who accompanied me, and I then stayed on for a few days to take in some of the interesting places to visit in the Swedish capital and were not disappointed. It is a wonderful country with extremely friendly people who speak superb English.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members who played in these matches, giving up their time and incurring not inconsiderable expense in getting to the venues. Obviously there are too many to mention individually, but you know who are and I know that you all thought the experience(s) worthwhile. It was a pleasure to be in your company and Captain the teams. I cannot finish this section with mentioning one member, who does deserve a special mention – Past Captain John Edgington who, although he serves as Regional Manager for the South East, also finds time to organise the GCMA/English teams for all the events. Thank you John!
Sandwiched in between the Welsh and Swedish matches, there was the little matter of a visit to witness the 144th Open. You will all have seen the weather conditions which prevailed during the tournament and I can assure you it was similar on the practice days. However, what the TV could not put over was how cold it was. There was generally a biting wind which, when the frequent showers came along, seemed to cause the temperature to plummet even more. Despite this the quality of the ball-striking by all the players is a wonder to behold – if only we amateurs could replicate some of this. I was fortunate in that I had always planned to return home on the Friday, which was when the 1st/18th fairway was under water. Having said all that, the course looked a picture which, coupled with the lively atmosphere in the town après golf, ensured a wonderful trip.
August sees me visiting Scotland for the annual match, which this year is at Royal Dornoch GC. Having played there once before, it will be an opportunity to renew my memory of this wonderful course.