The Senior Darwin is a spin-off from the Bernard Darwin Trophy. It is played between the original 16 schools of the Halford-Hewitt Cup at Woking Golf Club every June. The format is scratch foursomes knock-out, three pairs in each team, with a minimum age of 65. The atmosphere is highly competitive, most players having single-figure handicaps, but the matches are played in a fine Corinthian spirit.
This year’s ORGS team comprised a squad of seven players rather than the usual six: Robert Lyons, Peter Stanbrook, Christopher Gabbey, Jonathan Gilbert, Jock Fraser, Alick Hay and John Hendry, the last two making their first appearances. At this stage in our lives we may perhaps be forgiven for failing to include our houses and years, just as we have forgotten most other things except how to swing a golf club.
We won the first round against Wellington 3-0, with comfortable victories for all pairs. Peter Stanbrook played with Robert Lyons, Christopher Gabbey partnered John Hendry, and Jonathan Gilbert teamed up with Alick Hay.
The policy of providing the new players with experienced partners in the first round paid off in the afternoon, when we met Winchester. Stanbrook and Lyons came across a decent first pair who stormed ahead while they were still half asleep, and were 5 down by the 8th. They got three holes back, but lost the 13th to a streaky 30 foot putt and finally lost 3&2. This left our other two pairs with no leeway; but Gabbey and Fraser were up to the task, and Hay and Hendry came back from 3 down to win five holes on the trot before completing the job on the 16th. Match to Rugby, 2-1.
On the second morning we were up against Malvern. Stanbrook and Lyons faced anything but a good first pair and won 5&3. Then Gabbey and Gilbert had a great tussle with Malvern’s best pair, coming to the 18th one up. There Gabbey hit an enormous drive and Gilbert followed up with a majestic pitch to six feet, a fitting finale to his great career in the Bernard Darwin and Senior Darwin competitions. We lost the third match comfortably, but no matter: we were through to the final by 2 matches to 1.
So, on to the latest battle against our old rivals Tonbridge. Stanbrook and Lyons faced the redoubtable Geoff Clay and his able partner but proved the steadier over the second nine, winning 3&2. Behind them Gabbey and Fraser were involved in another frantic contest, losing what had been a three hole lead to a rather fluky chip on the 16th green. Undaunted, Fraser hit a brilliant pitch over a greenside bunker at the 17th to save the half. On the 18th we were on the fringe above the hole in two, from where Gabbey rolled a superb long putt down to four feet. Tonbridge had a tricky putt for a four from the edge of the green but just lipped out, leaving Fraser to putt out bravely for the match. Meanwhile the third match had been lost to an experienced pair, but once again, no matter: the Senior Darwin Salver for 2016 was in Rugbeian hands for the first time since 2007. Certainly the proudest day of my golfing life.
Bernard Darwin Trophy
Woking Golf Club
Burnham & Berrow
Tues 25th & Wed 26th
Match v RND
Royal North Devon
Huntercombe Golf Club