The Sunningdale Foursomes is one of the UK’s prestigious golfing events allowing top amateurs (male and female) to take on the pros in this alternating format. Chose your partner wisely as hitting every other shot is not for everyone. Steady players who rarely miss a fairway are a good place to start plus the ability to make a lot of 5 -8 foot putts under acute pressure.
It’s the mid 70’s and I‘ve been picked to caddy for Warren Humphries. He was an outstanding amateur winning the 1971 English Amateur at Burnham and Berrow, playing for the winning GB and Ireland Walker Cup team in the same year. He went on to win the Portuguese Open but not until 1985. His partner was Hedley Muscroft, a gritty Yorkshireman who also won one PGA tour event in 1970 seeing off Christy O’Connor Senior at the 4thextra hole. So I was very excited to be “on his bag”
The Practice Ground
Each day started early with a warm up on the driving range. Each player had his own bag of practice balls and their caddies were expected to head to the range and pick them up as the player hit them. So the advantage of caddying for a good player was that you didn’t have far to walk to collect each ball. The disadvantage was that on a grey early morning in March with the mist still clearing it was very hard to follow the flight before the ball thudded down close by left or right. This wasn’t too bad but then add 6 other players, some of whom were spraying it a bit that day and it was then quite a “thrilling” experience (no crash helmets provided).
Match play tactics?
Matches throughout the week we always close as the overall standard was high. The most noticeable difference between the amateurs and the pros was the speed of play especially on the greens. The amateurs would quickly assess the shot in hand, make a decision and then execute the shot. The pros however would take their time, deliberate, and then eventually after a few practice swings, play.
This approach was exaggerated 10 x fold on the greens. I reckon the grass must have grown a few centimetres by the time our two-some finally pulled the trigger on their putts. I also think it was a deliberate ploy to disrupt the tempo and flow of their amateur competitors. To be fair to them they holed a lot of 8 footers and so we progressed to the semi finals.
The semi finals
I was very excited to reach this stage. The guys however, were a bit off form and trailed with 3 holes to go. Sensing they might be knocked out, they managed to go up a gear and drew level with two holes to go.
At the 18th Hedley found the right hand bunker off the tee leaving Warren with about 240 yds to the green with a steep bunker face to contend with. The lie was good and he selected a 4 wood. I had visions of Laura Baugh (who while playing in the Colgate European open took about 4 shots to get out of the same bunker). He addressed the ball and I shut my eyes. Thwack and the ball cleared the lip of the trap and set off like an Exocet missile finishing 10 yards off the putting surface. Wow! What a recovery shot. Big grin from Warren. The pressure was also getting to their opponents who were having trouble too – on the green in 3 but 12 feet away.
So Hedley just needed to nestle his 20 yd chip up to the hole for a tap in and potential win. He hits it heavy and leaves it 5 feet short. Warren misses the putt so off down the 19th.
A similar situation; just off the putting surface in 2 requiring a “simple” chip and putt for a birdie to continue. However, the pressure was getting to them as well and the chip came up short and once more the putt was missed and it was all over.
So however good a golfer you are, however long you are off the tee, the 6 inches between the ears will always be the last battle field. Conquer that and anything is possible. Look out for my next Blog where we explore “Mindfulness” and how to manage the challenges that lurk between the ears.
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