The first day of the competition proper dawned with leaden skies and a firm wind from the East, the resulting effect in terms of wind-chill being to give the competitors and spectators the impression that they were playing in or watching the Siberian Gulag Open Foursomes. It was in fact so cold that the faint background headache caused by my researches into the quality of beer in East Kent was gone by the time I stumbled across the car park.
The first shot of the Hewitt was struck by Colin Nunn (Mill Hill) who showed no nerves at all in despatching it firmly down the middle of the fairway.
Pace of play was reasonable given the conditions (a fine balance between coping with the tricky cross-wind and avoiding hypothermia.) Some got it wrong but most got it right.
I took a turn on the slow-play buggy and by the time I reached the hut at the 9th, I felt I knew what Shackleton’s hut must have felt like when they staggered in for a kummel on their abortive trip to the South Pole. It slowly dawned on me during the back nine that although watching Whitgift beat Shrewsbury 4-1 was gripping, in its way, I could better serve the Society by staying in the warm and catching up on my admin.
Whilst out in the tundra, I was asked for two rulings and, clearly affected by the cold, I gave one which I now regret and one which is dubious but which I think is morally correct. The first involved St Paul’s and Wellington where I was asked whether, having submitted their team order and published the names, a player could be substituted if he had developed a back injury. The correct answer is, of course, no. The Hewitt answer should have been that as long as the opposition were willing to allow it, yes. My only defence is that nobody told me the opposition were happy to allow it. However I could have asked, and I regret not having brain capacity to have thought about it. I hope it didn’t affect the outcome of the match, which St Paul’s won 3-2.
The other ruling involved Mill Hill and Charterhouse and the car park to the right of the 12th hole at Deal. We had a ball in the car park where there was no interference to stance or intended swing but where the line of play was perilously close to a Mercedes S-Class. I recommended the same solution as would be adopted for a grandstand or scoreboard in the Open. A free drop more than one but less than two club-lengths from the nearest point of relief where the cars were not in the line of sight to the hole. In itself, this ruling has probably been amended by the new rules, but it was the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment, not yet having taken the exam in the new rules.
Imagine my surprise to be informed by most of the Deal membership that the fence around the car park marks out of bounds and has done so for many years!! This means that I should have been disqualified from at least two medals where I played from the car park over the last few years but that is a minor issue. I still think my ruling was correct and fair. The car park is close to the 12th fairway and the fence around it doesn’t meet my definition of a “boundary fence” as set out in the Local Rules. Once again, I hope the decision wasn’t pivotal to the outcome of the match.
On the whole, I decided that I could do less damage to the competition by staying in the bar and carrying out some ceremonial duties. The most pleasant of these was to present Christo Lloyd (Tonbridge) with a couple of bottles of champagne and the new Century Salver for having played in his 100th Hewitt match in the Tonbridge victory over Forest.
I returned to Deal to discover that it had been a great day for Aldenhamian victories. Sadly, in the main competition they beat Dulwich with the deciding match going to the 20th. In the other global competition taking place this week, Matt Wallace (Aldenham) won the pre-tournament par-three competition at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA. It goes without saying that we wish the members of Augusta National GC every success for their tournament, which is a 72 hole scratch medal starting today. If Aldenham win that as well, we shall have to hold a really big party.
Other results of note were a good Haileybury victory over Sherborne which was decided deep into extra holes, Felsted beat Downside and so David Robson will be forced to play on the Friday of the Hewitt for the first time in a while. Cheltenham beat Merchant Taylors’, which will upset the President, but was a good win as MT’s have been getting stronger of late. King Edward’s Birmingham beat City of London, whilst this can’t really be described as the clash of the titans, it does mean that King Edward’s have avoided the Plate for the first time in a while. Eton beat Stowe 4-1 and play Cheltenham tomorrow. Harrow also performed strongly with a 5-0 win over Wrekin to set up a match against Bedford.
At the end of the day I had a light supper with Canford in the clubhouse at Deal. Cranleigh and Malvern were also there for a highly convivial evening which will no doubt leave me needing fresh cold air tomorrow. I will sign off with an example of exactly what happens when you ask someone to take a photograph of you on your iPhone and you don’t bother to check how it has come out…..