It began with a putt…it always ends in a putt, but this time the story began with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Wycombe Heights to win through to the final stages of the Millennium Pairs International Classic in Ireland.
"It's destiny" said Suzanne, my mixed partner..."It must be," I thought! "We have got to win a tournament once...about time I made a putt!" I said.
|The UK's biggest Pairs tournament|
Over 90,000 golfers in over 400 clubs around the country took part and we knew we would be up against the cream of the crop in this 4-ball better ball stableford event.
For the first time, this year saw three separate events, Men's Ladies and Mixed Pairs with three trophies to play for and a host of other prizes for the winners.
Suzanne and I travelled over to Rosslare from Fishguard and headed North to our semi-final venue of Mount Wolseley, a cracking championship course enveloped by water hazards with fantastic greens and creative holes. Tuesday was designated as a practice round and we needed one too!
|Mount Wolseley…Semi Final venue|
The weather was not quite on our side with howling winds and rain and we had to brave the elements just to see all 18 holes and learn our way around the course, no matter how we scored.
The 'reccy' paid dividends as the following day, we managed to fire 40 points off our 3/4 handicaps and win through to the Grand Final.
There were eight other courses holding semi finals too from the magnificent St Helens Bay right up to Luttrellstown Castle Golf club near Dublin. The winners at each venue were guaranteed an all expenses paid trip to the salubrious Slieve Russell Golf and Country Club near Ballyconnell.
As we made our way up to Slieve Russell along with nine other mixed pairs who had qualified from Mount Wolseley, we looked forward to the week ahead with great anticipation and a little air of confidence! But everyone in the field had won at their respective clubs and everyone knew how to win at golf…it would boil down to who could play the best on the day.
Slieve Russell is a charming setting with every extra you could possibly want form a top quality hotel and well worth a visit in its own right for a weekends golf or just plain R&R.
There was not much time for R&R as the organisers had a full schedule planned for us at the venue. Thursday was practice day and everyone had to score properly to get the best placing in the draw for Friday's final.
And with tough conditions on a championship course, there were not many great scores in, some in the high 30's and just a couple in the 40's on another blustery day in Ireland. We managed 35 points with a couple of "blobs"!
Thursday evening was a chance for everyone to swap stories at the Gala dinner of how they qualified at their clubs. There were some cricket scores in the mix of it with one couple qualifying on 48 points! Where do they park their horses and hang the sombreros?
|Martin, Suzanne, Paul and Anne…Mixed pairs finalists|
Some teams took the night easy though most partied the night away…like us! We had not had the chance to sample much of the Guinness or the band in the bar each night, so we didn't pass it up this time.
But before we knew it, it was 0430am, we were all singing songs, shouting and bawling, dancing and just having a complete hoot…the first for a long time I may add!…Oh…and we were teeing off in five hours!!! Great preparation for a tough days golf ahead!
On the first tee the following morning, my chums in the media reminded me of every song I sang for them and every joke I told…I am sure it will haunt me one day…but when in Ireland…you have to enjoy yourself a little!
Everyone was after their respective £20,000 trophy and the prestige it involves in having it at their home club for a year and during the final, everyone was taking it very seriously.
|£20,000 worth of Waterford Crystal!|
In the final, we were paired with a great couple, Paul and Anne from Orton Meadows in Peterborough. Paul got his day off to a fine start with a birdie at the first hole and already we were a point behind.
But by the eighth hole the points were level and the head to head battle was delicately poised with both couples playing well under the intense pressure of the Sky Sports cameras and the eager media from around the UK.
At the long par five ninth, we managed to steal a couple of points thanks to my birdie four and Paul and Anne only managing a point from that hole. But they were very competitive all the way and never gave up.
Anne played one of the shots of the day at the long par three 11th hole and parred it to secure three valuable points. But yours truly came up with a putt of telephone call length for a birdie two, also for three points! I followed it up at the next with another birdie from four feet, but we still weren't in the clear!
|GOLFmagic Editor Martin Park and Suzanne Cooper|
Anne and Paul are a very dogged couple of players and suit each others game well. Both couples were scoring well and we had reports from the press that nobody else on the course was doing as well as our fourball!
The crunch came at the 15th hole, a downhill par four with Paul getting a shot from me. After spending a good three minutes searching for my wayward drive, Suzanne found it. (Thanks Sue!)
Paul was within two putt range and I needed par at worst to keep a slender lead for Suzanne and I. Somehow, I squirted my approach just past the greenside bunker and canned the 30 footer from off the green for a valuable birdie, much to the chagrin of our playing partners…especially poor Anne…and I don't blame her either…I would have been gutted too! That was where for me anyway…it ended in a putt…a very long and lucky putt which I had no right to sink! Needless to say I did not celebrate it for the fear of being clocked over the head by Annes putter!
But I mustn't forget my partner Suzanne who had been a rock all the way around, scoring when I couldn't and putting in a few two and three pointers of her own when I could only manage a trip to the water! It was much the case at the 16th. I dunked my tee shot into the lake fronting the green and left all the pressure on Sue's slim shoulders!
She responded with a 5-wood to ten feet and safely two putted for a par and three points. (Thanks Sue!…Yet again!) Anne and Paul however could only manage a point and for the first time in the head to head battle, we had a five-point lead with two to play.
It still was not over as Anne had a birdie putt at the 17th with a shot in hand…luckily for us and sadly for them, she three putted and we had a BIG reprieve going up the last hole.
18 holes and 41 points later…WE WON! I couldn't believe it, but we won! A golf writer was on the wrong end of a tape recorder and notepad after the event, being interviewed instead of doing the interviewing…what a weird experience…I was "Quote-less"!
Suzanne however was happily lapping up the attention on the TV cameras, thanking all the "beautiful" people that she had met that week! Both of us were fumbling words on camera and to reporters…but we didn't care…we won! And it still hasn't sunk in yet!
In the ladies competition, it was a much closer battle than ours turned out to be, so too in the Mens event.
Debbie Tapply and Pat Toothill from Rowlands Castle near Portsmouth had a great day on the course, firing 37 points to pip the win and they made good use of their husbands as caddies too, as did we!
Chris and Mark played with us in our practice round and we really enjoyed their company and thanked them for their competitive edge which made us play a bit better on the day!
And in the Mens event, Matthew Laws and Paul Lomax from Carholme in Lincolnshire won the event on 40 points but only after another pairing were dramatically disqualified after a breach of the rules. One of the players took three drops from the rough when only two are allowed and after the rules committee sat and checked it out, they were informed of their bad luck!
But that did not take the edge off the week as Worldwide Leisure Marketing, especially Ross, Marianne and Mark had managed to make everybody's week thoroughly enjoyable, competitive and definitely worth a fiver!
Golf Extra on Sky Sports are showing the event on TV on Wednesday night…be sure to watch and laugh at what we said on camera!
Entries for next years Millenium Pairs start in November and the plans are to take it to a Pan European Level and possibly on to the USA which would make it perhaps the biggest Amateur tournament in the world for Pairs…Get your club in the event…for £5 each person, you can't go wrong!
Get involved at your club and we might see you there next year at the grand final…venue to be announced soon.
|Pat Toothill, Debbie Tapply, Matt Laws, Paul Lomax, Sue Cooper and Martin Park...WINNERS|