Four Walton wins, were followed by a controversial halved match, and then, a somewhat litigious abandonment of the 6th Wedge Trophy! So it was of great relief when a full contingent of Wedgers gathered on a sunny Walton Heath GC patio, ready to demand satisfaction in a battle for the 7th Wedge Trophy.
The Deal team had been obsessive over preparations, and Earlington had been good enough to send scouts for a full course report ahead of the game, unsurprisingly the general tone was very positive, after all this is the wonderful Walton Heath GC, but one section of the report shocked the team: “Walton greens have recently been aerated and heavily scarified. Surely a blatant attempt by the Walton boys to thwart Deals superior putting strokes? And allegedly there are two temporary holes in play on the Old as a result of the 18th green being rebuilt. A blatant attempt to shorten the course and thwart Deals superior long game?”. This was an independent report and in no way reflects the view of any RCPGC member, however, the fact remained that the home advantage had become very relevant indeed. :
So, to the morning matches on the big brother Old Course, and as the fixtures on paper would have suggested, it was a tight morning’s play. Waud was sporting a strong track record going in to the ‘Captains match’, it was a nip & tuck game that Waud/Berryman looked like edging when 1up on the last, but a robust Hedge/Mason par was enough to make the honours even. The match behind was equally close with Zorko and Stuart “boom it a mile, oh is that another net Birdie, I’m a bandit” Frith, all level with Bakerman and the flying hobbit, on the 165 yard par 3 18th tee. A beautifully accurate 3 wood from Fewster, and a hooky one from Zorko, left Deal looking good for a win, but that rascal pairing of banditos got up and down for another honours even match.
It should be noted that during these tight matches Earlington was stalking the latter holes of the Old course like a Ryder Cup captain geeing up his troops. Needless to say he had finished up business with Waltham on the 14th, after a one sided game against the usually excellent Prickett and the (until then) undefeated Story. Behind them Bowes (of ‘Bowes-gate’) was partnering a Walton rookie John Carroll, an excellent addition for both his golf and banter. They took on our young guns; the eternally hungover Fox and the ‘great man’ and ex Cambridge (or was it Oxford??) Captain Mr Wells. The Walton boys took that one in a photo finish, one for the Wedge album perhaps.
In the fifth match Chatterton, what a lovely man, had partnered the House of Payne, playing against our token Irishman and token left hander. Deals tactic of vexing Payne with our own left hander clearly worked as Munro and Glynn took the points.
Now the most important stat you need to know: 2 years 5 months 12 days 1 hour and about 15 minutes… that was the time on the ‘Fent Win Clock’, in other words, the time since he had last registered a Wedge point. He partnered Deal rookie Alex Cork, who has recently re joined RCPGC and shown strong commitment to his golf by buying a house and an engagement ring just to appease the girlfriend over his new heavier golf schedule. They took on the turncoat Brodie, having his first game in a Walton shirt, who partnered the first ever Wedge player to be confirmed as an actual woman. It turns out that betrayal (Brodie) and Oestrogen (Caroline) are a potent formula, as they ensured at least 5 hours would be added to ‘Fent Win Clock’… stop that ruddy clock!
So scores level at lunch; 3 – 3. We paused a while to bathe in the glorious sun and Wedge atmosphere, then once satiated, we headed off to the New Course for what was to become a truly momentous Wedge afternoon. Certainly one worthy of at least a double page spread in the Wedge History book (yet to agree a publishing deal on said book, but simply a matter of time given demand).
You will excuse me for a slightly quicker run through of the opening 4 matches because I wish to take time and savour what was an epic finale. Berryman and Jeremy Waud (the most ‘experienced’ rookie to ever play the Wedge) came across a possessed man in Earlington and a rejuvenated Mr Glynn (3 – 4). Waud and Frith proved to be a rather formidable pairing as they over hauled Waltham & Fewster a fair distance from the clubhouse (4 – 4). Furious from his morning defeat Story partnered previous ‘man of year’ Zorko, playing against Captain Hedge and the still Wedge undefeated Bakerman. It was yet another match to be edged on 18, and Deal took it, 4 – 5. House of Payne had tasted a rare defeat but recruited an excellent partner in JC for the afternoon, playing Mason and Cork they put in a strong finish to take the points Waltons way. So there it was, a match set up perfectly in the balance at 5 – 5.
The wonders of WhatsApp meant all scores were being streamed to those waiting in the clubhouse, on news that the remaining matches were tight, 16 Wedgers hurried to the 18th green with pints in hand, [queue the music] this was going to be a Grandstand finish!
Having been waived through, the match we saw striding down the 18th was Bowes / Prickett versus Wells / Fent. It seemed tense; both teams had balls in play, Deal had been 1up on the 17th tee, but what was the state of the match now? FYI at this point the ‘Fent Win Clock’ was at 2 years 5 months 12 days 5 hour and about 45 minutes. There was a clear air of confidence in the way Fent moved, and what was that expression on his face? We couldn’t work it out. He then started taking pictures as he approached the green! What was going on? Focus Fentos, focus! Then he strolled in the direction of the crowd gathered at the back of the green and uttered words that will never be forgotten… “It’s over boys, it’s over, we won it back on 17”! The reaction that followed from Deal was pure euphoria, but Fent didn’t seem jubilant as such, and then his undecipherable expression became obvious; it was pure contentment. This was a man now at ease; he had stopped that clock, and in doing so had guaranteed Deal at least a halved match. Well played sir, well played indeed.
Attention slowly turned back down the 18th for the final match between Chatterton / Brodie and Fox / Munro. Once again we knew Deal were one up the 17th tee, but this time we could see that no hands were shaken on the 17th green; either this match had turned bitter with no such gentlemanly conduct, or this WAS genuinely going down 18! Brodie hammered one down the middle, Fox’s third hangover wave of the day swept in at just the wrong time and it went wide. A duffy one from Chatters and a Munro hack out of the deep had them in similar spots just short. Fox laid up with a limp putt, and Munners was unable to rescue things. It appeared Brodie had given Chatters a ‘one of them’ putt to win the hole; he duly stepped up and stabbed one home, the hole to Walton. But the match! Was that for the halved match or the win? Then an unmistakable Cheshire cat grin spread across Foxy’s face and Munners confirmed; “we were one up, so match halved”! The scenes that followed made the European team look like they weren’t that fussed about winning in Medinah!
Finally it was Royal Cinque Port’s day. However, the moment of the day belonged to Fent; he kept his head when all those about him were losing theirs, he trusted himself when some people doubted him, he waited and was not tired by waiting, he dreamt but did not make those dreams his master, he filled that unforgiving time with one hundred and sixty two holes played, he has the Wedge and everything that it is, and – which is more – he became a hero, my sons of Deal!