Sunday was entirely consistent with the rest of the week in that it was bitterly cold all day and the matches produced some high drama especially at the end when the deciding match in the final was eventually concluded in the sub-zero gloaming at the 23rd hole.
But first the semi-finals which were tense but ultimately went according to the form book. Ampleforth, playing at a consistently high standard, were always in control against Loretto although there was the odd tense moment when a fightback looked possible but was ultimately quashed. Loretto won the top match at the 20th hole but the rest were not so evenly matched. Ampleforth won the 5th game out in the country (5/4) and games 2 and 4 by margins of 2/1 which meant they were through to their third consecutive final with enough to spare to allow the 3rd game to be declared a half.
In the other semi-final, Malvern beat Watson’s 3.5 – 1.5 in a dour struggle where every match went to the 18th and the deciding game, no.4, was won by Malvern (Henry Aldridge and Sebastien Blanchet) at the 19th.
So the final, Ampleforth against Malvern, played in a fine sporting spirit and appallingly cold conditions reminiscent of the story about the man driving the refrigerated truck across Canada who broke down and got into the back to keep warm. Indeed as the afternoon went on, it got colder and colder and the sky greyer and greyer. The matches all swung to and fro with many come-backs and shifts in momentum. I chose to follow the top match from the 9th, which was fortuitous because it turned out to be the decider however it means I missed out on the drama in the other matches of which I gather there was plenty. As and when I receive any updates about other matches, I will update this report.
If I had £1 for every time Malvern looked finished this week, I would be a wealthy man. Time and again they have seemed to be down and out only to spring back like a punch-ball and be ready to go again. Ampleforth looked to be in control everywhere except the bottom match around the turn, although with the exception of match 3 where they were 5 up, the margins were tiny.
In the top match, between Mark Whittaker and Chris Minchella of Ampleforth and William Beeson and Ian Timberlake of Malvern, Ampleforth were one up after 9 but over-clubbed into the 10th to go back to all-square. Malvern then contrived to take 5 after a magnificent drive down the 11th and Ampleforth got a remarkable 4 from a poor lie under the face of a fairway bunker. Ampleforth 1 up.
Malvern got it back with a good 3 at the 14th from short of the green whereas Ampleforth took 4 when they left their putt from off the green well short of the hole. All square.
The 15th was a bit scrappy but halved and then they halved the 16th with magnificent 4s considering the cold and the wind. Two great drives, and two magnificent second shots to the heart of the green with a three-wood and 2-iron respectively for Malvern and Ampleforth.
Ampleforth won the 17 with a solid 4 after Malvern went through the back from where hardly anyone can get up and down in two. Ampleforth 1up playing the 18th.
Malvern won the 18th, and I mean won it, with a good drive before Beeson hit a truly magnificent iron shot to within three-feet. Ampleforth failed to get up and down from short of the green so conceded the putt and they went off down the 19th.
The 19th and the 20th were halved in solid 4s although at the 20th, Ampleforth conceded a putt that my best friends would never give me, showing the sporting nature of the contest. Then it started to get a bit ragged as tiredness crept in alongside nerves as it slowly became apparent that the whole match depended on this game. The third was halved in 6 and the fourth halved in four before Malvern made a solid 5 on the 5th to win it in semi-daylight and definitely the coldest conditions I have experienced on a golf course.
And that was that. Back to the bar in order to try to generate some warmth in the body and to commiserate with Ampleforth who played brilliantly all week but who just fell short in the final for the third year running. I doubt there is anybody in the competition who would begrudge them a victory next year, as long as it’s not against Dulwich!