Every year 24 players and members from Harold Wood cricket club compete in the ‘Alternative Ryder Cup’ now renamed the ‘Smith and Carman Cup’ after its founders. The group is made up of hackers, non-golfers and generally non-sportsman attempting to metamorphosis into golfers for three rounds of team and singles matchplay.
The first round we played was at Eaton Golf Club, which we found was located within a housing estate not far from the centre of Norwich, however the layout and condition of the course was superb. As players turned up and polo shirts were handed out, everyone was asked to guess how many ball would be lost… 24 players playing three rounds, take a guess!
The groups played team fourballs and as everyone enjoyed a post round drink in the evening sunshine, where it was discovered that Team Smith had taken a commanding 4½ to 1½ advantage.
The group then retired to the outstanding Dunston Hall hotel, which would be our base for both accommodation and golf for the remainder of the weekend. First impressions were… this is a bit too nice for us… This was confirmed with the plethora of East Anglia’s finest arriving for a very formal black tie dinner. But when we learnt that Charlton Athletic FC were also at the hotel before their massive League 1 fixture against Norwich on the Saturday we thought we might blend in a bit better.
The group devoured a stunning carvery, before everyone retired to the bar to sup on copious amounts of booze with certainly none of the Charlton players and certainly none of their ‘WAGS’.
Saturday began with me having to make sure my roommate was still breathing after I found that he had slept on the floor next to his bed. A huge buffet breakfast before our 10 am tee time helped with people’s hangovers, but as the sun beat down and the round turned into a 5 and half hour marathon, some people began to wilt with senior man of the group Eddie having to retire to the pool as soon as his match was over on the 15th.
The Texas Scramble event went down really well with a high handicapper and a not so high handicapper being paired together. Three of the six matches went to the par-3 18th and even though the pace of play was sometimes excruciatingly slow, most people came off the course with a huge smile on their face.
In a hope to speed up play for the next day my brother Peter was asked if he could perhaps reduce the amount of practice swings he takes in half (to 20).
Another carvery was devoured and with it several more hundreds of pounds were spent on the bar. A small group ventured into Norwich and under strict instructions from their captains to return by 1am, needles to say they stumbled back at 04.30!
Sunday morning’s sun arose to more fuzzy heads and the distinct smell of the previous nights kebab with the score at 4½ to 7½ to Team Smith with 12 singles matches still to play. The cooler weather was a definite help to everyone’s head and as the groups chopped round in a Usain Bolt like 4 and a half hours players enjoyed the conditions, the course and the company.
Special mention must go to Tony ‘TC’ Carman who at the right old age of fifty something recorded his first hole in one with a 4-iron to the 185-yard par-3 4th hole. Everyone enjoyed his drinks bill afterwards! However even his individual heroics could not stop Team Smith from charging to a 14 points to 10 victory.
As the players left the civilised surroundings to charge down the A12 back to the normality of Essex and beyond, everyone agreed that they would attend next year in the hope of more glorious weather, luxury and of course with the false hope that it might be their turn to taste golfing glory.
Oh and the amount of lost balls – 181