Published on 21st November 2021

Major Pennant Side Remain in Division 2

While it’s usually not the preferred start to the day for lots of people there’s something calming and almost invigorating about being at the golf course just after dawn. The early light is a photographer’s dream. It’s normally quiet and cool and you usually feel that anything is achievable and your goals are very reachable.

Unfortunately a misty, wet and cold start to the day just makes you wish you were still in bed.

On those days it takes a pretty special sort of commitment to achieve what you, your team and your club desperately want.

On Sunday 21 November the Major Pennants team desperately wanted to win the home leg of our two-match relegation battle with the boys from Cabramatta.

The minimum we needed was a 4-3 victory (to match a 4-3 loss in the away leg some 4-5 months ago). That result would then force a sudden death play-off between our best and their best.

Anything better and we would avoid the vagaries that make a one-on-one sudden death play-off not much better than tossing a coin.

With much at stake and a cold, wet morning dampening both the air and your enthusiasm the tee shot on the 1st is quite the challenge. We graciously offered the honour to the visiting team and their No.7 graciously put his opening drive into the backyard of one of the houses that fronts Copeland Ave slightly west of the Cardinal Ave roundabout.

Unfortunately he was just about *matched by our No.7 and the first hole of the first match was likely to be won with a bogey (or perhaps a double bogey). Not what you’d expect from golfers as good as these guys but it’s much more complicated with so much at stake.

There was an equal smattering of good drives and poor drives from the first tee as each of the seven matches got underway but basically no-one has ever lost the match on the 1st hole (although our referee for the day, Chris Allen, probably has a story or two suggesting the opposite) so no real harm done just yet.

It was cold and wet (although not as wet as they had predicted) and while the golfers have all the pressure and must get used to operating somewhere outside their comfort zones the spectators soon realise how little heat your body generates when you are not walking the course and frequently swinging a golf club.

While their focus is firmly fixed on hitting good shots and winning holes the players, nonetheless, derive a boost from seeing their club mates on the sidelines and are deeply appreciative of anyone who makes the effort to lend their support and on a pretty miserable day the spectator turnout was impressive.

A regular pattern for a lot of our group matches over the past 2-3 seasons has seen us very competitive over the early holes only to surrender our advantage towards to end of the games resulting in narrow losses that looked winnable for most of the day.

So after a pretty typical start to the day (a few matches up, a few matches down and a few matches all square after 4 holes) it was a surprise and a disappointment that the scoreboard showed us 5-2 down at the halfway point.

Our hope, therefore, was that instead of leading early and perhaps fading slightly towards the end of the matches we might have more success fading early and coming home strongly.

The two matches that we led after 9 holes were ones that we felt very confident of holding on to. Ryan Richards (4-up) and Andy Richards (6-up) at the break both seemed very much in control of their game and their emotions. Great to see Ryan at ease with his game and his role.

In the heady atmosphere of play-offs experience is invaluable and with plenty of runs on the board from excellent performances in the Masters Pennants team (and tons of Major Pennants experience) we felt that the selections of Dave Bailey (at No.5) and Gabe Ormaechea (at No.7) would give us the best chance of winning the early matches.

After 9 holes it wasn’t going quite to plan for these two (both 2-down) but our club Captain was unperturbed and was spot on when he predicted that they’d both win their matches. The efforts of Dave and Gabe to comeback and win these matches were not only highly regarded but pivotal.

So great comebacks from a couple of legends and a continuance of the earlier form shown by Ryan Richards and we had the 1st 3 matches won and while not counting our chickens this looked a lot like 4 matches won given that Andy was well ahead in his match.

You can never undervalue Andy’s impressive performances in his Major Pennants career but his 8 & 6 victory in his match and the fact that Cabramatta sent their No. 2 player into the play-offs suggests they might have played their top 3 players at the No. 2, No. 3 and No.4 positions.

So basically 4 matches in the bag and at the very worst a man-on-man sudden death play-off had us looking at the 3 remaining matches hoping for one more victory to get us all out of the rain as soon as possible.

Jared Dries, Steve Oitmaa and Grant Naylor were all fighting hard and had eaten into their opponents leads with only a few holes to play. Grants opponent managed to keep Grant at arms length and secured a 3 & 1 victory after a drama filled 17th hole.

Steve stood on the 18th tee all square and if the hopes and prayers of a pretty good crowd standing on the practice putting green had been fulfilled his tee shot would have ended up nice and close to the hole leaving him (at most) an uphill 2-3 footer for a birdie and a win.

PHGC members all know how difficult the tee shot on 18 is and if you want to put yourself in the players shoes head down to the back markers on a cold, miserable and now very wet day and see how you might go.

A nicely struck shot from our boy just drifted left, missing the bunkers but leaving Steve with a difficult chip to a white flag with his opponent left and long but with putter in hand.

Reminiscent of the shot played by Dave Bailey earlier Steve hit a very nice chip leaving him with a 15 footer across the green to save par and probably take the match to the 19th hole.

Steve’s opponent hit a great 1st putt, had a tap in for his par (which was of course conceded) and unfortunately a great putt from Steve came up marginally short and Cabramatta had secured their 2nd match of the rubber.

Still 1-down Jared needed to win the 18th to square his match and send it down the 19th hole and he did get to put himself in Steves shoes. He hit a solid shot that somehow fought against the prevailing breeze and ended up right of the green beside the 10th tee. He hit a chip that you and I would be proud of but the birdie that he had hoped for was now not possible.

He squared the hole with his opponent and this 3rd match for Cabramatta left the score at 4-3 for us and tied up the home and away matches 7 all. So Andy Richards was heading back to the 18th tee for a sudden death play-off the result of which would see us in Div 2 or Div 3 in 2022.

As indicated earlier Cabramatta chose the player they had sent out against Jared to represent them in the sudden death play-off. If you thought you had some feel for what faced the players a few minutes ago on the 18th tee this was now for all the bickies, there was a sea of faces peering out from under umbrellas behind the 18th  green and the rain was getting heavier by the minute.

Both players hit impossibly good tee shots, given the situation, with Andy significantly closer than his opponent whose first putt was good but not good enough to win the hole. Andy’s first putt was tracking and without the recent heavier rain might have ended the contest right there but he didn’t get the extra roll he needed and both players headed back to the tee for another go.

The Cabramatta player didn’t quite produce the swing he wanted and didn’t quite get the contact he needed and his tee shot came up right of the green and short of the bunker, rolling a few yards further down the hill.

Andy’s shot was ever so slightly mis-hit but he’s such a good player that he still managed to find the green leaving him a long uphill putt for birdie and we had the advantage.

His opponent hit a very good chip leaving him below the hole with about 10 feet for his par and Andy had his second chance to end the contest from about 30 feet.

Andy then hit an excellent uphill putt that threatened to go in (and bring the house down) until it trailed off line in the last 30-40 centimetres leaving a tap in that was quickly conceded.

His opponent would make Matt Jones look ponderous and no sooner had Andy picked up his ball and moved to the side than the putt was on its way.

Also possibly impacted by the heavier rain the putt didn’t quite have the pace for the line chosen and the play-off was won, the contest was over, our season had reached its climax and we remain in Division 2 for the 2022 campaign.

Perhaps a little too close for comfort but, having chosen at the start of the year to begin a youth development strategy, securing our spot next year in Division 2 is a big positive.

Can’t thank the caddies enough for doing all the hard work yesterday keeping clubs, grips, gloves and players dry and any success we have is always yours to share. Charlie Johnston, Matt Davidson, Paul Kearns, Terry Gilchrist, Mike Clisdell and Michael Richards deserve our thanks and admiration.

It was a cold and slightly miserable day and on the sidelines the objective of watching and supporting the players only just shaded the objective of staying dry and warm. It is therefore impossible for me to name everyone who turned up to watch some (or all) of the proceedings but their attendance and support is much appreciated and must also be seen as a factor that contributed to this result.

Special thanks to the Captain, Damian Maguire for his role in the proceedings, Liahm and Liam for handling a frenetic start to the day and for club Legend Chris Allen for once again being so generous with his time and refereeing the contest.

Final Results

  • Andy Richards – Won 8/6
  • Jared Dries – Lost 1-DN
  • Grant Naylor – Lost 3/1
  • Steve Oitmaa – Lost 1-DN
  • Dave Bailey – Won 1-UP
  • Ryan Richards – Won 5/4
  • Gabe Ormaechea – Won 1-UP

Play-off

  • Andy Richards won on the 2nd play-off.

Filed under: Golf