The sixth and final qualifying round for the Golf Monthly Centenary Society Grand Final took place in early August over the famous Old Course at Marriott St Pierre near Chepstow just across the Severn Bridge. The venue is steeped in history having hosted countless tour events and the 1996 Solheim Cup, so it was sure to prove a worthy adversary for the record 55 combatants looking to secure one of the four remaining Grand Final places.
Overnight rain cleared to leave players facing generally pleasant conditions that varied from overcast to sappingly sultry, before a gently cooling breeze moved in later on. The course was in great condition and the greens nicely paced, though some felt they were just a touch quicker than they were used to.
To ensure a good spread of handicaps at the Grand Final, the field was split into four roughly equal handicap brackets. Victory in the single-figure sector went to Mike Chapman whose 35-point return was second best of the day overall and good enough to see him five points clear of Christopher Brown. In the narrow 10-13 band, two of Golf Monthly’s forum stalwarts battled it out, with Martin Bedborough (aka HomerJSimpson) – on the forum since before time began – finding some decent form to return 34 points and edge out Tony Reed (pokerjoke) by two. Homer recorded one of just four par threes on St Pierre’s famously fearsome 236-yard finale.
The even narrower 14-16 handicap band was a closely run affair with William Hutton’s 34 points just seeing off Gareth Metcalf by one. William was one of only four to scoop a quarter share of the £108 ‘Twos sweep’ thanks to a timely chip-in on the 6th. Not only did he qualify for the final, but he also pocketed £27 for that audacious two (the others came on the 3rd hole for Martin Toal, Rhys Pescod and Andy Selway).
Finally, honours in the 17+ handicap category went to the very steady James Edwards, whose 36 points was the best of the day and good enough to pip Michael Hooper by one. It was a tale of two Stephens in the Nearest the Pin and Longest Drive contests, with Stephen Knight knocking it closer than anyone on the 6th and Stephen Pescod unleashing a monster on the 17th.
Final mention should go to the impromptu bonus prize dreamed up by the GM team whose admin desk in the Chepstow Suite afforded them a wonderful view of St Pierre’s impossibly difficult par-3 18th. We challenged everyone as they came off the course to guess how many out of 55 would hit the green, with guesses ranging from the pessimistic (1) to the seriously over-optimistic (26). The pessimists (or realists) got it spot-on, and after solitary successes in the first two fourballs, no-one else was able to find the dance floor over the next hour and a half. Five people correctly guessed two and the tiebreaker (highest Stableford score on the day) saw Tony Reed gain some consolation for just missing out on the Final.
0-9 handicap: Mike Chapman, 35 pts (qualifier)
10-13 handicap: Martin Bedborough, 34 pts (qualifier)
14-16 handicap: William Hutton, 34 pts (qualifier)
17-24 handicap: James Edwards, 36 pts (qualifier)
Nearest the pin on 6th: Stephen Knight
Longest drive on 17th: Stephen Pescod
Congratulations to all prize winners. All 24 qualifiers from the six rounds staged at various Marriott resorts throughout the spring and summer will get to tee it up in the Grand Final to be played on the Arden course at Marriott Forest of Arden on Thursday October 13, 2011.