This is a bit of a historic week for Whittington Heath (previously Barracks), one of the oldest golf clubs in England, founded in 1886. Yesterday there was an online auction to sell off the fixtures and fittings and on Sunday, at 1800, the clubhouse will close for ever. It’s a bit of a rickety-rackety old building but now that we’re leaving some of us are getting a bit nostalgic as we remember the fun and the laughs – though a long line of treasurers will probably be thinking of the maintenance bills and tempering their romantic recall with visions of vast outlays past.
Those of you who are aware of my inclination towards the profligate will be glad, if a little bit surprised, to know that I didn’t splash out on any of the items, not even a tee marker from the 13th, my least favourite hole, where I once had a hole-in-one. It wasn’t very exciting because that day the hole wasn’t visible from the tee and it was left to my playing partner, who had given up the search for my ball, to look in the hole as she went to her ball on the other side of the green. It remained/remains my 18th favourite hole on the course. If I walk off there with a bogey 4, I’m happy.
Anyway, my piece of memorabilia was deemed too tatty to go into the auction, so I got it for nothing – although there have been several mentions of prosecco and red wine from those involved in the process of checking that no other eejit wanted it and removing it from the clubhouse wall..
The sign’s a reminder of golf’s occasional (?!) delusions of grandeur, as though there were something common and crass about changing one’s shoes in the car park; now everyone’s doing it, apart from those of us who arrive already booted and spurred. My fervent hope is that the sign will not be replicated in the new car park and that there’ll be a distinct lack of ‘Don’ts’ about the place and not a single notice that starts with the word ‘No’…..
We’ll be moving into the new clubhouse next month – though it’ll be in dribs and drabs with all parties and celebrations, even masked balls, on hold for the foreseeable future. There’s lots of work going on still as the contractors scurry around putting the finishing touches to everything, including replacing broken windows and tiles – that’s the trouble with most of us golfers, we rarely hit the ball in the right direction at the right speed….
Bryson DeChambeau, the new US Open champion, took most of the headlines last week, though I won a putter for nearest the pin in two at the 5th on Pro’s Day on Saturday and a little higher up the competitive scale Georgia Hall won the Cambia Portland Classic, her first tournament victory in America. The 2018 Women’s British Open champion, from Bournemouth, beat Ashleigh Buhai, of South Africa, at the second extra hole. Mel Reid, another Englishwoman too often weighed down by great expectations, led after two rounds and finished in a share of 5th place, two shots behind the leaders. It all bodes well for next year’s Solheim Cup at Interlachen and fingers crossed that Leona Maguire, who was in a tie for 28th, is in the mix to become Ireland’s first Solheim Cupper, along with Stephanie Meadow. Wouldn’t it be great if two came along at once!
It’s hard to keep track of everything that’s going on at the moment with schedules being rejigged here, there and everywhere but it’s the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week, at Galgorm Castle in Ballymena. The parkland course only opened in 1997 but its Jacobean castle dates from the 16th century and it is building a reputation as a more than respectable tournament venue. Shane Lowry, the reigning Open champion, who won this event as an amateur and Padraig Harrington, twice an Open champion (and a winner of the US PGA) are competing, to add lustre to the occasion. In the first round, however, they were outshone by James Sugrue, the (British) Amateur champion from Cork, who had a 67, just two shots behind the leaders.
Sugrue, who received a late invitation thanks in large measure to some Twitter lobbying by Lee Westwood, one of his playing partners in the US Open at Winged Foot, will be turning professional after the Masters in November (sounds odd, doesn’t it?). He missed the cut last week and was relieved to find Galgorm a little more forgiving.
There was a time when Matteo Manassero was up there with the big boys, playing in the big events but now the Italian is having to work his way back and at least he’s made a start with victory in the Toscana Alps Open. Nice to see him smiling. This is a very humbling game.
Finally, many congratulations to former England and Curtis Cup star Jill Thornhill on winning the Ladies Autumn Meeting Gold Medal at Walton Heath last Saturday. It was a difficult, windy day by all accounts, the CSS went up to 76 and Jill had a gross score of 78, a feat that earned her a mention on Sky’s US Open coverage – and there’s no hiding this, the story would be pointless otherwise, because her score matched her age. The club’s report said that it was the first time she’d shot her age but I can’t quite believe that – just as I can’t quite believe she’s 78!