The victorious Loretto team
For the second year running the final day belonged to Loretto although it was not a foregone conclusion by any means as they were run close by both Haileybury in the semi-final and again by Tonbridge in the final with games going into extra holes in both matches before the outcome was decided.
Both semi-finals were closely contested. Tonbridge eventually overcame Radley 3 1/2 – 1 1/2 in a match where they slowly turned the screw round the “loop” at the far end of the links which left Radley with a lot to do over the last 7 holes and they fell just short. Loretto had an anxious time against Haileybury where Bonallack and Songaila staged a marvellous come-back from 4 down to win at the 19th, however Loretto eventually prevailed.
The final produced some high class golf and was too close to call for much of the afternoon. Loretto got away in the top game and were 4 up after 12. On the other hand Tonbridge were three up after 9 in the third game, which eventually proved not to have been as secure as was thought.
After a quick Bovril and Sherry at the hut, I decided that game 4 was likely to be decisive and so I followed that one. For once I got it right! All square after 12 holes both tee-shots were solidly down the right half of the fairway at the 13th, Tonbridge hit a fine second shot to about 5ft and Loretto, under pressure, left their shot out to the right in the swale. Normally it can be tricky to get down in two from that swale but Loretto, putting from off the green, managed to hole it! That made the Tonbridge putt look about twice as long as it had done previously and their putt slid by. There were still five holes to go but this felt like a decisive moment, and Tonbridge lost the next two holes as well so it may have had a psychological impact.
There they were then, Loretto three up with three to play heading off down the 16th which they lost after bunkering their tee-shot on the left. So two up with two to play and the veteran Hewitt watchers amongst us were exchanging knowing looks. At the 17th Loretto again went left down into rabbit territory among the sand hills. It’s a very hard second shot from there even if you draw a decent lie. You have to hit across the protecting sand hill on the left. Anything short gets pushed away to the right and anything other than short scampers through the green off the downslope. Loretto played it well but the ball died on the sand hill about 10 ft from the top. Meanwhile Tonbridge played a marvellous pitch from the centre of the fairway to about 3 ft. Loretto got down in two for a battling four but Tonbridge held their nerve and won the hole with a birdie.
Spectators walking down the 18th with the decisive match.
Loretto were now only 1 up playing the 18th. Tonbridge played a decent drive steering it down the right hand side, well away from all the trouble on the left. Loretto pushed their drive deep into the rough on the right among the mole-hills. At this point we were wondering whether Tonbridge were about to pull off another Houdini like escape as all the momentum of the game was with them. However Loretto hit a superb shot from the scraggy rough, well over 200 yards to end pin-high just to the right of the green but on the plateau, not below it. A wonderful shot. Tonbridge played their second a little long to the back of the green. I could just say that they both made 4 and the match was Loretto’s, however they had to hole from a couple of feet for the match and managed it bravely.
The whole final was played in the best of spirits with great camaraderie and sporting conduct between two great teams, one perhaps passing the torch to the other, but making it clear that they won’t go gentle into that good night!
The sign-writer putting the finishing touches to the Hewitt Honours Board following completion of the Final.