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1st Team Report 2013

The first team had another good year in 2013, winning 8 out of 10 league matches and securing a number of fantastic individual successes.  Unfortunately we were narrowly beaten to the league title by Woburn and the BBO team championships by Castle Royle, but with the wealth of junior talent coming into the squad, prospects for 2014 look good!
The year got off to a slow and rather wet start.  The 3 way face off against the Stags and Juniors was cancelled due to torrential rain, and the following weekend a covering of sleet and snow put paid to our regular season opening friendly against Moor Park.  That meant we went into our first league match against Beaconsfield short of match practice, and the rustiness looked as though it would cost us dearly, but we managed to scrape a narrow victory on home soil.
Home and away fixtures against the Buckinghamshire followed in May and June, both of which we won comfortably.  July saw two successive fixtures against Castle Royle, who we knew would be tough opposition.  We had a strong team for the home match, and won with relative ease (6-2).  The away match on the final day of the Open was somewhat tougher – missing a number of players, we were unable to take inspiration from the golf at Muirfield and allowed Castle Royle to take revenge by the same score line – a result that was to ultimately cost us the league.  In between the Castle Royle matches, the Stoke Park team of Kevin Freeman, Carl Corbin and Andrew Lynch competed for the BB&O Champion Club title at Frilford Heath Red Course.  On a scorching hot July day all three played some excellent golf, but were narrowly beaten into second by Castle Royle.
Next up we faced last year’s winners Woburn – keen to make amends for the slip up at Castle Royle and to give ourselves a chance of regaining the league title, we fielded a really strong team, and won by a score of 6-2.  Given that was Woburn’s first league defeat in two years, it was a fantastic performance.  Unfortunately the away fixture in mid-September wasn’t so successful.  Knowing a halved match would leave us in control of our own destiny, we fell agonisingly short.  In an exact repeat of 2012, we lost 4.5-3.5, and allowed Woburn to take the upper hand in the league – a lead they would not relinquish.
Our final three matches at Beaconsfield and home and away against Porters Park felt something of an anti-climax, but some fantastic individual performances saw us take maximum points to finish a close second overall.  
Whilst all of the team played some great golf this year, there are a few players that deserve a special mention for their performances for the first team in 2013.  Firstly, Conor Gough, called in at the last minute against Porters Park to make his first team debut at just 10 years of age (surely the youngest player to represent our first team by some distance!), he played some fantastic golf to win his match 2 up. Luke Fitzpatrick also played some great golf for the first team this year, winning 6 out of 7 matches to firmly establish himself in the team. Finally, Trevor Danks – at 9 handicap Trevor was on the edge of the squad at the start of the year, but was called up on 3 occasions and, in case there is anyone in the club that he has not already told, Trevor recorded an impressive 3 wins out of 3 (and what he refers to as his “300% record”).  Trevor will happily talk you through all of his matches, hole by hole, shot by shot, if you wish!
Whilst the first team didn’t quite manage to win the league, there were a number of fantastic individual performances to applaud.  Most impressive of all came in August, when Stoke Park hosted the BB&O County Championships, with 75 of the best golfers in the three counties battling it out over 72 holes in two days.  With many players struggling to get to grips with our greens (and some rather tricky pin positions) Tom Lawson came out on top with rounds of 71, 73, 75 and 69, to be crowned County Champion for a fourth time – well played Tom!  To prove that he could do just as well over 36 holes as 72, Tom followed up a few weeks later with victory in the Club Championships, with rounds of 75 and 68 – again, well played Tom!
With our Junior Academy developing some fantastic talent, some of the younger members of the first team squad enjoyed great individual success.  John and Conor Gough swept all before them in the BB&O under-14 and under-12 Order of Merit, established themselves as amongst the best in Europe for their age groups and have reduced their handicap to scratch and seven respectively.  For those of you that have not seen them play, they are seriously impressive and it’s well worth stopping to watch them next time you are at the club.  Another great result came from Luke Fitzpatrick who won the Prince of Wales Challenge Trophy (a national under-21 event) over the Duchess Course at Woburn in August.  This is a great victory in a top class event, good work Luke!  
Not to be outdone by the youngsters, two of the ‘more established’ first team players rounded off the season with an impressive victory in October.  Luke Rusher and Kevin Freeman saw off 63 other pairs to win the London Amateur Foursomes for the second time at the Berkshire Golf Club.  Also in October, Stoke Park had 4 players (Tom Lawson, Kevin Freeman, Andrew Lynch and Carl Corbin) in the 8 man BB&O County side that won the South East Counties Championship, beating a strong Surrey team in the final at Brocket Hall.  For 50% of the team to come from one club when the County has over 125 clubs to choose from shows the high quality of golfers we have at Stoke Park, and we can expect that to improve even more as the Junior team goes from strength to strength!
I’d like to finish by thanking everybody that represented the first team this year, all of the matches were played in fantastic spirit with some great golf on show.  If there are any single figure handicap members that are interested in playing for the first team then please do get in touch, we are always looking for more players!
Kevin Freeman 
1st Team Captain
November 2013