The feat was made all the more remarkable by the nature of the win with a score of 9-3. Having received a bye in the first round of this year's competition Goodwood have won four straight matches against formidable opposition. Furthermore three out of the four matches have taken place on away venues, Haywards Heath Golf Club, Littlehampton Golf Club, and the neutral venue for the semi-final victory at Nevill Golf Club.
After a long and early start for the team to Tunbridge Wells, they were greeted with bright sunshine and a beautiful morning for the start of a huge day in the clubs history.
Nick Tull had asked the team to focus on trying to win the afternoon singles session, something Goodwood had only done at home back in May, but before this the pivotal morning foursomes matches needed to be contested.
Matt Lavington and 2017 club champion Leo Ruggieri led the team out and played very solid golf from tee to green. Leo added some yards to his fledgling game under the guidance of Christian Fogden in recent months and his partner was full of praise. Probably the strongest pairing took care of their match having holed some good putts of between six and twenty feet winning 5&4. A great start to the morning session.
Brian Arnell and Paul Millard, a new pairing found themselves up against East Brighton's most formidable pairing which included US Florida based college attendee Toby Graves. Sadly, they lost 4&3 having put up a valiant fight.
Dave Porter and skipper Nick Tull managed to win without needing to go the distance. The undefeated pair played sub-par golf cruising along five up after nine holes and apart from a visit to the trees at hole 11, were relatively un-troubled winning 5&3. This was the first time Goodwood held the lead on the day, and it would prove to be a lead they would not relinquish.
Chris Kerr and Stuart Gillett faced a stern test. A magnificent eight iron to two feet at the first from Gillett gave them the perfect start. They were pegged back later on and found themselves being watched by the rest of the two teams and their supporters. From the fairway the Goodwood pair found the greenside bunker and then the back of the green, which after their opponents had played a recovery shot from the trees, meant they were making hard work of finishing the match off. Gillett holed from seven feet to eventually salvage a half on the seventeenth green to win their match and the morning session, 3 – 1 up.
Once again the foundations of this victory were laid in the morning session, it is harder to come from behind and win so winning the first session is a real help, although the pressure was still on.
Order of play in the afternoon was based on form, some thoughtful tactics, and a bit of luck! Ruggieri went out first in what was his final appearance for Goodwood before he moves to America. Ruggieri’s opponent was sitting by the ninth green by the time the seventh match had reached that hole meaning he had lost heavily. When asked if he had to retire early he replied “Yes, Leo retired me 6&5”, a generous compliment no doubt and a great way for Leo to bow out of the competition for Goodwood.
Ruggieri has developed and matured on and off the course in recent months and no doubt this experience will have set him up well for the highly charged competitive team environment he is about to enter in the States. We all wish him well.
Matt Lavington’s valiant effort at number three meant a tough afternoon for East Brighton's Graves – he was losing until the 14th hole which showed the grit of Lavington’s metronomic consistency tee to green with the eventual score a narrow loss of 2&1.
Paul Millard hit top form at just the right time, after winning his first four holes Paul further stretched his lead and demolished Burt winning 8&6. At this point Millard had been four under par – incredible golf on a very tough layout. This match finished well ahead of schedule meaning Millard and his supporters avoided playing in the atrocious weather more suited to ducks of the same name, also the score had now edged up to 5 – 1 in Goodwood's favour.
Chris Kerr found some nice form in the afternoon too. Kerr secured his win on the sixteenth green which is now where the crowd of spectators and finished players were gathering as the smell of victory began wafting over the Tunbridge Wells. Score now 6 – 1 Goodwood. Previously this was enough to progress but as this was a neutral venue the required winning score was still half a point away.
Dave Porter was taken to the last hole in his match, having played solidly all year. Goodwood always look for Porter to add to the points tally and he did enough to win. His point sealed the valuable win. Tull and Gillett also added points to their mornings haul both finishing on the sixteenth green.
In now glorious late afternoon sunshine with long shadows and a setting sun, and most importantly in front of all the gathered on-lookers. Joyous scenes, many a handshake and hugs followed. A truly remarkable run continues. The final score 9 – 3 to Goodwood.
Practice rounds, many of which have been played in awful weather and supporters are without doubt both key to this so far successful campaign. Golf At Goodwood will face East Sussex National Golf Club in the final, on Saturday 19th August at The Dyke Golf Club.
The host course is set in similar terrain to the Goodwood Downs course with stunning views across Devils Dyke and beyond. Hopefully the team will feel comfortable on the course layout and although will enter the final as clear underdogs. If they play the way they have this year already, East Sussex National can expect a real fight for the Oliver's Trophy