Crunch clashes in battle to reach knock-out stages
Round six of the Burghley Park’s Winter League was completed at the weekend and, with just one round of the league phase to go, it’s still all to play for in all four divisions.
Sunday is crunch time with some intriguing match-ups in prospect.
Stuart Blessett and Darren Fellowes are in pole position in League A, sitting three points clear of the rest of the field on 13 points, knowing that a half would ensure they progress to the knockout stages.
Their 4&3 victory last weekend over Stephen Moody and Dunmore Hind puts real pressure on the three pairs chasing them for one of the two qualifying spots, one of whom - Gary Harrison and Dave Marsden, lying third on 10 points - find themselves playing the leaders in the final match, knowing that they need to beat them by at least two holes to have any chance of going through.
Peter Barnes and David Gibson lie second on 10 points, after beating Robert Howe and Bob Sandell 5&4, and also know that a win in their last match is essential.
Also in the mix are Moody and Hind, in fourth place on 10 points, but they need to win big and hope that other results go their way.
David Jackson and Javan Argent lead League B on 12 points despite losing their first two matches.
After this initial shock they knuckled down and have a 100 per cent record in their last four games.
Their holes won record was boosted by their recent 6&4 demolition of Mark and Tommy Johnson and they go into their last match - against Glynn Woolf and Steve Barnett - knowing that a half would probably be enough to see them through.
Three pairs have 10 points, led by Jon Young and Lewin Auciello who are probably regretting their recent half against Woolf and Barnett, but who also know that a win in their final match against the Johnsons (who are in fourth place, also on 10 points) will probably see them through.
Richard Gilbert and Dave Tilley are currently third, also on 10 points, and need to beat Bill O’Driscoll and Terry Austin to have any chance of forcing their way past the sides above them.
League C finds Matt Pettit and Dan Elliott at the top with 14 points, after a very hard-fought tussle with Chris Quinn and Dave Lennie which went right to the wire before the leaders took the match one up.
It throws up an intriguing clash in the last match where Pettit and Elliott take on Mark Musgrove and Hugh Riddlesdell in a match where the victor is assured of making the knockout phase and the loser will have to rely on the outcome of other matches before knowing their fate.
Musgrove and Riddlesdell are currently third on 12 points, having beaten Graham Shaw and Anthony Barnes one up at the weekend.
Neil Harden and Mark Norman are second on 12 points, after their 5&4 defeat of Brian Barber and Doug Hunter, and can be almost certain that a win in their last match (against Jim McEwan and John Coulter) will see them through.
John and Jordan Mayman lead League D on 13 points and are the only team in the whole of the league phase to know they have already done enough to get through.
Their 7&6 defeat of Ray Rose and Derek Reid-Hughes ensured their progression, but they still need to win their last match (against Mike Powell and Matt Payton) to be sure of going through as group winners.
Jason Rudkin and Steve Coultas occupy second place on 11 points, having overcome Paul Wilkinson and Bob Emmins 2&1 in last weekend’s match and are certain to go through if they win their last match against Charles Cade and Robin King.
Previous winners Paul Ramm and Richard Allen have nine points in third place, having disposed of Mike Powell and Matt Payton 5&4 at the weekend, but need to rely on results going their way to have any chance of getting through to the last eight.
Cade and King also have nine points and know that a win against Ryan Birtles and Trevor Robson is essential for them to have any chance of progressing.
Bob Collier’s captain’s dinner at Burghley Park was enjoyed by everyone present, including a memorable performance by the well-known after-dinner speaker Mike Lewis.
A proud Welshman, who drew on his experiences growing up near Swansea, Mike claims to have played some first class rugby, some fair cricket, some sub-standard snooker and some incredibly bad golf.
On a return trip to Burghley, having been there in 2015 for Dave Devlin’s captain’s dinner, Lewis kept the audience entertained with his reflections on life, especially with a Welsh perspective.
His skill at picking up on things happening in the room around him, and using the audience as his foil, was impressive and Collier, who hosted the evening, probably regretted some of the things he’d said over dinner.
He said: "I was absolutely delighted with the evening. Mike kept everyone amused after dinner and it was a great evening."
Collier began his speech by announcing that more than £6000 had been raised during the year for his charity the On-Course Foundation and thanked everyone for their generosity.
He went on to thank everyone for helping to make his captain’s year so enjoyable and paid tribute to the contributions which so many people had made to the club during this time.
He particularly thanked his vice-captain Mike Powell and wished him every success for his year ahead as well as the chairmen of committees (David Jackson, Robb Tapp), the A and B team captains, Adi Ward and Jim Scutt, C team organiser Robb Tapp, juniors organiser Sam Beckett, opens organiser Jim Clarke (who is standing down after five years in the job) and press officer Keith Duff, all of whom received gifts of appreciation.