Friday, 13 September 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 Captain's Day

Last Sunday was Captain's Day at Royal Ascot to celebrate the current incumbent, Ken Martin's year in office. The weather had a decided autumnal feel after the recent hot spell, with a couple of hefty showers to make life interesting and a big field going off a two tee start. It was good to see Ken and his chosen charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, getting the backing of the membership. In my opinion he has been a very good club captain.

I was off the first tee and looking to find something in competitive play that has been missing in recent weeks. On the downside, my swing had felt a little out of kilter for a while and range sessions had done little to fix the problem or give the confidence a boost. Warming up did little to light the spark. A double bogey on the first courtesy of an errant tee shot leaving me unable to hit the green with my recovery meant my mood was instantly downbeat. I got a great drive off the second and left me with a rare chance to go for the green in two. It isn't something I'd normally contemplate in a competition but had decided the game wasn't really there and so could go out with some freedom and just have some fun. I came up just short and right but pitched to a couple of feet and made a birdie to tidy up the first hole error.

I hit the third in regulation but an ugly three putt from thirty feet was a disappointment. Having split the fairway down the short fourth I only had a pitching wedge in. I put a real shocker of a swing on it and pulled it way left. It caught the bank left of the green and before it had got there I knew the outcome was out of bounds. It lies no more than twenty feet left of the putting surface and coming off the slope with pace there is nothing to stop it. I had no option but to drop another. This time I played it properly and stuck it to five feet and made the putt to rescue a bogey five.

I pulled another wedge approach at the par five fifth. Another miracle recovery shot allowed me to rescue par and I even managed to find the green at my nemesis hole, the par three sixth. Being Captain's Day there was the inevitable nearest the pin at the shortest hole on the course, the eighth and despite being the second group out, I got it to a respectable twelve feet to get my name on the sheet. I couldn't make the birdie but another up and down at the ninth meant I had turned one under handicap with nineteen points.

The tenth hole is a shot hole and a good drive and approach to the heart of the green should have led to a par, net birdie and another shot gained. I raced the first putt a couple of feet past, trying too hard to make a birdied and then missed the one back. It hurt and it was a chance spurned.

I made a net par at the next finding a bunker of the tee on the par three but standing on the stroke index 1, twelfth hole I was still in good shape. That was until I carved my tee shot way right trying to cut the corner of the dog-leg and ended up losing a ball. I dropped a shot at the next too. The fourteenth has been a bit of a card wrecker for me in recent months. It's a tight driving hole. You need to hit it far enough to be clear of the trees to the right of the fairway but there is heavy rough and trees if you err too far left. I made a solid contact but pulled it left. I hit a provisional and put it almost in the same spot. The provisional was actually out in the open and playable. The first one was against a tree trunk and although I managed to get it a few yards out and playable I was still nearly 230 yards from the green. I pulled my five wood and made the perfect swing and the ball ended up twelve feet away and I only just failed to make an improbable par.

In the end, despite a rare par at the long par four sixteenth and a dropped short at the seventeenth, I knew I wasn't going to win but a solid last hole would see me hit the buffer zone. In the end my net par was enough to do just that and despite a slightly disappointing 15 point total on the back nine, the 34 point total was better than I had anticipated.

There was a good prize table including Henry Cotton trophy, presented to the club by the three time Open champion. The winner of Captain's Day and the recipient was Ray Grubb.

Ray Grubb receiving his prize from club captain Ken Martin and next years captain Anthea Winn
A special mention should also go to single figure golfer Dave Grove who managed to record a hole in one on the sixth hole.

Dave Grove tells exactly how he managed to make an ace at the 178 yard 6th hole
As well as charity buckets for members to make contributions to the Macmillan Cancer charity, there was also a bit of fun outside the clubhouse where a ten yard bucket challenge was set up adjacent to the tenth tee. Players were given a chance to chip into a bucket placed ten yards away. Not as easy as it sounds but great entertainment especially for the watching masses

Get the ball in a bucket from 10 yards. What could be easier?
All in all it was a great day capped off by a free drink courtesy of the Captain and a lovely bowl of chicken and chips over which to discuss where it had all gone wrong for many and how it came right for those picking up prizes. Of course the day couldn't have run as smoothly as it did without the efforts behind the scenes of many unsung heroes and so I'd like to add my thanks to everyone who helped make the day a huge success.

From a personal perspective, the buffer zone was a welcome break from a string of 0.1 handicap increases. I felt I played with a modicum of freedom especially the front nine but as soon as the realisation of a good round being within my grasp, I began to focus much more on the score (probably why I three putted the tenth) and the swing got quicker and tighter. It's hard when you aren't entirely sure of your swing but I have to say overall, the lost ball on the twelfth aside, I was rather pleased with how it played out. There is still work to be done on the swing over the winter and I will be speaking with my teaching professional, Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre, about what we need to tighten in the next few weeks now the nights are drawing in.

For now though, a big thanks to Ken for a great day and a great year in office and I look forward to seeing how Anthea Winn handles the mantle of club captain and how Roger Wing gets on as Anthea's vice captain. They have a tough act to follow but I am sure both will make their own mark on the club and keep it moving onwards and upwards in 2014.

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