Sunday saw a full field of 96 players turn out to contest Burghley Park’s annual Men’s Christmas Stableford, rescheduled from last week due to the snow closure.
Always popular, this year-ending event is usually over-subscribed as a result of the extensive prize list, and this year was no exception.
Conditions were harsh. The early starters had to contend with Arctic temperatures and frozen ground, which made playing the frosty greens challenging.
It didn’t get any better later on though, despite the gradual thawing of the ground, as the wind got up and rain and sleet arrived.
The shelter of the clubhouse was eagerly sought and this was especially welcomed by the later starters with the arrival of Anthony Barnes, who announced that he had got a hole in one on the 13th – and the drinks were on him!
His nine iron tee shot on the par three had taken a couple of bounces before dropping straight into the hole for his first ever ace.
Barnes said: “It was a great thrill to see the ball go in, and really made my day.
“What was equally pleasing was the fact that I managed to keep my concentration levels up for the rest of the round and ended up with a reasonable score.”
The frost-shortened course encouraged good scoring, despite the tricky greens, with 10 players carding 40 points or more, and 26 beating par.
For much of the day there was a log-jam at the head of the field, with six players sharing the lead on 41 points, and all feverishly working out the countback situation.
All this became less relevant almost at the last minute when Robert Howe, virtually the last man on the course, came in with a winning 42 points, the key to his success being an eagle two on the sixth hole which gave him five points.
Howe, playing off 16, went through the front nine in just three over par gross, for 23 points, and hung on well on the back nine for another 19 points, despite failing to score on the 12th.
Behind him, Graham Bedford (16) won the countback battle to claim second place on 41, despite two blobs, with Angus Keech (12) third on the same score, ahead of Charles Cade (20) and John Mayman (18) also on 41.
The other prize winners were Richard Gilbert (41), Doug Hunter (41), Steven Dawson (40), Charlie Gardiner (40), Mark Norman (40), George Grant (39), Alan Kinch (39), Neil Keenan (39), Steve Barnett (39), Russell Compton (39), Barry Doggett (39), Adi Ward (38), Peter Hopkins (38), Richard Vaughan (38) and David Jackson (37).
Club captain Bill O’Driscoll had masterminded an extensive golf raffle to provide extra interest and encouragement to contribute to the captains charities, with investors hoping to win seats in a box at Old Trafford for a Manchester United match (thanks to Richard Keal for his generosity), free fourballs at venues such as Gog Magog, John O’Gaunt and The Bedfordshire, a selection of golf equipment, or a drinks package sponsored by MolsonCoors. The raffle raised £820, delighting captain O’Driscoll.
It’s just past halfway in the league stages of Burghley Park’s Winter League for men – and it’s still all to play for in each of the four leagues.
Only one pair has managed to maintain a 100 per cent record after the first four rounds, with David Jackson and Javan Argent leading the way in League B with their 12 points. But with three rounds left no one can take anything for granted.
In League A two sides share the lead on nine points. Mark Johnson and Carl Taylor stay in top spot, despite losing 4&3 to John Coulter and Jim McEwan and are joined by last year’s losing finallists Doug Hunter and Brian Barber, who beat Peter Barnes and David Gibson 4&3.
Three points back on six points are Tom Hagues and Daniel Dunthorne, Tom Dunn and Tom Hutton, and John and Jordan Mayman.
The Maymans won a tight match against Alan Cole and Chris Townsend 2&1, while Hagues and Dunthorne and Dunn and Hutton were unable to play their match, and missed out on the chance to join the leaders.
David Jackson and Javan Argent have the only 100 per cent record in the whole competition, and lead League B with 12 points after beating Ray Rose and Derek Reid-Hughes 3&2.
Neil Harden and Mark Norman lie second on their own on nine points despite losing two down to Gary Harrison and Dave Marsden who climbed to third place with six points.
Adrian Boyden and Shean Smith halved their match against Stuart Pringle and Andy Vaughan, and the pairs lie fourth and fifth respectively. Bill O’Driscoll and Terry Austin had a bye this round.
League C is the tightest of all just now, with only four points separating all the teams.
Dave Tilley and Graham Bedford lead on 7 points, having halved a very competitive match against Martin Ash and Stuart Blessett.
Paul Wilkinson and Bob Emmins lead the three pairs who lie second with six points, despite having a bye in this round, and are joined by Richard Cook and Richard Gilbert, who beat Stephen Moody and Dunmore Hind 3&1, and by Kev Lawrence and Ian Jacobs, who beat Scott Downie and Charlie Gardiner 2&1.
In League D, Paul Ramm and Richard Allen head the table with nine points, despite going down 2&1 to Stewart Ward and Jon Tyrrell, but are joined by Chris Quinn and Hugh Riddlesdell who beat Dan Elliott and Matt Pettit 3&2.
Steve Hopkins and Graham Camp, attempting to defend the title they won last winter, were held to a half by Rob Tapp and Cathal McHugh and lie two points back in third spot.
Phil Hunt and Keith Duff shared the points in a halved match with Sam Parker and Ben Taylor.
Work is now well underway on the redevelopment work being carried out this winter on three holes at Burghley Park, despite the recent challenges imposed by inclement weather.
The green complexes on holes six, 15 and 16 are being extended and improved under the leadership of highly-respected course consultant Gordon Irvine, renowned for his work on many of Britain’s most highly-regarded tracks.
Last winter, holes three and 13 were redeveloped, and were very well-received by members and visitors alike, and the current work extends this approach to three more holes.
Groundworks are well advanced on the sixth and 15th , with the ponds having been removed, bunkers relocated and extended, and a series of rolling swales being put in. Fairway bunkers are also being added. Work on the 16th starts in the new year.
Alongside this work, a major programme of tree removal is taking place, to return the course to the more open parkland which it used to be, and to reduce the impact of trees on greens and tees.
Work was proceeding well until the snow arrived but, despite this, Gordon Irvine and the Burghley greenkeeping team kept working in challenging conditions to ensure that lost time was minimised.
The work is a central part of the club’s programme of continual investment in improving their facilities with the initial focus being on the golf course.
“We’re delighted with the work that Gordon’s doing for us.” said the club’s Infrastructure Director Keith Duff. “It is all part of our development programme for the course aimed at improving its quality and challenge, as well as inspiring our greens team to continually improve presentation.
“They’ve done a great job this year, and their dedication and determination in keeping going during all the snow last week was terrific.”
The three re-developed holes are scheduled to come into play around Easter 2018.