In a contest that was played on a very soft Haywards Heath golf course that had been thoroughly soaked by the weather in the week running up to Saturday, bright sunshine and a strengthening breeze greeted the players in the morning.
A change in the line up meant that other Goodwood squad members were called upon, and were led out in the morning foursomes by Simon Jardine and Brian Arnell who was making his first appearance in the competition for Goodwood’s fledgling scratch team. Their match was always going to be pivotal and they faced a seasoned campaigner for Haywards Heath who has been representing them for over twenty years, accompanied by his solid foursomes partner. As predicted the match was played at a high standard so perhaps it was fitting that it took a shot of the highest calibre by Jardine to close out the match on the long par three 17th hole. Simon holed a twenty-five yard pitch shot that landed in the perfect spot and rolled in to the middle of the hole to win 2&1.
Chris Kerr and Leonardo Ruggieri were cruising along in their match always one or two up until halfway through the back nine where they were pinned back by three successive birdies from Haywards Heath’s second pairing but hit back with their own on the par five 16th hole, however it was not quite enough and eventually went down fighting hard, losing 2&1.
Arguably the performance of the morning was that of 17-year-old Charlie Parsons who partnered Stuart Gillett in the alternate shot format and made an immediate impact with almost pitching his first tee shot on the front edge of the par four first green some 320 yards away. A simple up-and-down birdie three saw Goodwood’s third pair off to the best possible start, one up after one hole.
Stuart and Charlie went on to increase their lead to three up and, it's worth mentioning they were playing against James Wilmott, who long standing members will remember completed his PGA training under the late great Keith Macdonald’s guidance here at Goodwood some 20 years ago. James returned to the amateur ranks approximately four years ago but on Saturday even the ex-pro was unable to halt the Gillett/Parsons combination of power and accuracy. After a bullet shaped shot in to the par five 16th hole by Gillett to make birdie, they shook hands on the 17th green winning 3&1. This was new pairing and again our congratulations go to Charlie Parsons for an outstanding scratch team debut for Goodwood, very much one for the future we hope.
Dave Porter & Nick Tull gelled nicely at the back of the morning draw, but once again found themselves down early in their foursomes match having lost the first two holes to birdies, and after seven holes were three down. A solid birdie four on the eighth hole followed by a chip-in for a birdie two on the par three ninth hole for a half helped keep the deficit to just two down after eleven holes.
Straight drives down fifteen and sixteen allowed Porter/Tull to square the match and then move ahead with two holes to play. After deliberating on the tee, a glorious three hybrid struck by Porter on the long par three seventeenth hole, which by now was played in to a three club wind, lead to a solid par three which was the final act in a hard fought 2up victory.
This unexpected triumph in the morning session exceeded Goodwood's conservative expectations as we were only targeting a 6-6 draw to progress as away team winners, however this 1 – 3 lead albeit richly deserved perhaps flattered to deceive at the halfway stage.
The afternoon singles started with a mix of young raw talent and a couple of more experienced campaigners with Goodwood looking to strike early and win the crucial three further points needed to progress. This is when the momentum swung back in to Haywards Heath’s favour as they cancelled out the morning deficit by winning all of the first three matches in the afternoon to take a 4 – 3 lead halfway through.
Leo Ruggieri played well again having shown good form during Goodwood's squad practice round earlier in the week and he stopped the rot at the number four spot in the afternoon line up, a mix of two birdies and fifteen pars was probably always going to be good enough, Ruggieri winning 2&1.
Stuart Gillett made up for his surprising previous rounds singles defeat and got firmly back on track with a convincing 3&2 victory over former Goodwood assistant pro Wilmott. Two victories over the same man in one day is always going to be hard to forget.
Chris Kerr went down 3&2 in his afternoon match, although never one to make excuses, Kerr had been struck down 24 hours earlier with a stomach bug, and whilst fully able to play, was not at full power.
With Kerr's defeat it was now back level at five points apiece. This now meant Haywards Heath and their 50 or so supporters were all buzzing round the back nine in buggies and on foot trying to find the game this tie would be decided upon, it is always at this point in the afternoon that the minds of the players are forced to re-focus as it is obvious when out in the middle that the match is on a knife edge.
Brian Arnell and Goodwood skipper Tull had been cruising along in the respective singles matches for most of the afternoon but Tull’s match had been waved through by Arnell’s group on the fourth hole due to a lost ball, so the order had been swapped and all the pressure was on Arnell’s shoulders.
Tull’s eagle putt was conceded on the 16th hole to square his match and moments later Arnell struck his best drive of the day down the par five 16th hole to leave around 220 yards to the green. Tull won the 17th with a par three to go up the last hole with an unassailable one up lead, but the desired six point threshold had still not been reached by this guaranteed half point.
All the pressure and mounting numbers of spectators remained on Arnell’s shoulders and beside the 17th green respectively, where Arnell got up and down for a par five to secure Goodwood's sixth full point of the day winning 3&2 meaning the job was finally done. The final overall score was stretched to an outright victory 5 – 7 after Tull wrapped his game up on the 18th green.
Golf at Goodwood won 5 – 7 (away)
It is important to state that the whole fixture was played in the best of spirits and both teams commented on the sportsmanship and conduct of their opponents who then all gathered in the bar to reflect on a fantastic days golf, just as it should be.
Thank you to the handful of Goodwood members and staff who travelled on their day off to caddie for, or walk the course to support #teamgoodwood, it was great to have you there.
Goodwood will now face Littlehampton GC in the quarter finals AWAY on Saturday 15th July. This is an exact repeat of circumstances of Goodwood's third round defeat last year and we will be doing everything we can to avenge last years disappointment. As the venue is much closer to home for most of us, we would kindly ask that as many members as possible come along and show your support to not only help lift the teams spirit for what will undoubtedly be a very difficult match, but to also counter the home teams support and advantage they will have.