Golf Captain’s Report – The ISGA European Championships
Golf at Winchester has undoubtedly been on the rise in recent years thanks to the investment made by the OWGS and the involvement of great staff like Mr Moore and Mr Macey. The fact that we were even taking part in a competition like the ISGA European Championships shows just how far the golf programme has come. Going into this event the team had endured a difficult couple of weeks, with an especially tough loss to St John’s Leatherhead in the first round of the ISGA Matchplay. There was definitely the feeling that we’d been underperforming and so we were hoping to bounce back in Spain.
The inaugural ISGA European Championships got under way at Villaitana on Friday 25th October with a practice round on the Levante Championship course. That evening we found out that the group’s food and accommodation had been upgraded and so for the rest of the stay we enjoyed a five star experience off the course. Early the next morning the first day’s competition took place on the Poniente course where the teams played fourball better ball, the scores of which would go towards the overall team score. Winchester’s first pairing out, made up of Jamie Joshua and myself, came in with an encouraging -4. The second pairing of Alex Cheung and Sergej Stojiljkovic didn’t play as well as they would have liked but were still able to manage a respectable score of +3. Whilst -1 sounded like a good total we found ourselves sitting in second last position overnight.
The next afternoon the individual stroke play got underway on the Levante Course. On the singles days the best 3 scores from each team went towards the team total and so when it became clear that Saturday wasn’t Jamie’s day there was some added pressure on the rest of us to produce. Luckily that’s exactly what we did. Alex Cheung posted a remarkable +7, especially when you take into consideration his handicap of 15 and his 8 on the par 4 13th. Sergej, the youngest member of our team by a long way, also fell foul of the 13th taking a 7 in what was a solid round of +9. It was however the captain’s day, shooting his first ever under par round at just the right time. With a combined total of +15 for the day we jumped up the rankings into 4th position.
Sunday morning saw the final round of the competition, this time individual stroke play on the Poniente Course. With individual and team prizes up for grabs it was Winchester’s time to shine. Out first, I built upon my breakthrough the day before reaching -6 under thru 11 holes, with 7 birdies. Unfortunately a couple of bad holes on the way in saw me drop back to -3 for the day. Directly behind, Jamie Joshua was having a much better day which saw him post a thoroughly impressive +1, holing a vital birdie putt on the last. Further back, it was a story of steady consistency with both Alex and Sergej arriving in with rounds of +5. Now all that we could do was wait for the results. Whitgift’s A team had won the team event comprehensively and so the best we could hope for was 2nd.
After an agonising wait the results were revealed. With three of the team all well under their handicaps for the week we won the team nett rather comfortably. With a trophy in the bag, along with some weighty medals, we waited to see where we’d placed in the gross. When we found out that we’d come second all of us were ecstatic. Whilst we didn’t receive a prize, this result definitely felt like the biggest achievement, especially when we considered where we’d been after the first day of play. In the individual competitions Alex Cheung missed out on winning the individual net by one shot, whilst I came second in the gross. The individual winner came from the dominant Whitgift A team. George Mullins, a +2 handicapper, who shot an incredible 8 under par over the two days.
All things considered, it was an extraordinary performance from the Winchester team and one which will be hard to follow in the future. A big thanks has to go to Mr Macey who was much more than just the don in charge. Over the four days he was our psychologist, coach and number one fan. Since arriving back the new ISGA rankings have been published and all 4 members of the team are currently sitting in the top 25. I think it would be fair to say that this result has finally established Winchester as a force to be reckoned with on the independent school’s circuit. Hopefully we can continue on our upward trajectory and cause havoc in the Micklem Trophy next term.
Jack Keating ( C )