Our 2015 Public Schools Old Boys Golf Association pilgrimage to win the Grafton Morrish Trophy began with the spring qualifying event at North Hants Golf Course in Hampshire. The course, famous for grooming the golfing talents of Justin Rose, is often ranked in the Top 100 UK courses so always provides a stern test for (some of!) Millfield’s most gritty old boy golfers!
On Sunday 31st May 2015 our hand-picked team of low handicap golfers gathered to ensure that we were one of 6 teams to qualify from the 15 schools assembled, with the added incentive that the top placed school on the day would be seeded and receive a bye into the second round of the competition proper to be held in Norfolk in late September.
Arriving early to tame the practice net and the tricky sloping practice putting green plus a few refreshing pints, our first stableford scratch foursomes pair of Giles Legg (insert dates and houses if possible please) and Adan Yates were first to tee-off and bagged a hard fought, second best score on the day of 31 points. Our second pair of Oskar Fletcher and Toby Clifton-Holt rallied well to secure 25 points with Lewis Casserley and Michael Stent limping over the line with a fine par at the last to secure 20 points. Our combined score of 76 points was good enough for 5th qualifying spot, so the next day the accommodation was booked and the dates put in the diary for the Finals at Brancaster and Hunstanton in Norfolk, later in September.
With a number of the planned team unavailable due to injury, domestic pressure or having tuned professional our assault on the trophy started with a leisurely practice round and a hearty team bonding pub meal at the magnificent Lodge Hotel In Hunstanton, The next day, waking up to glorious Norfolk golfing conditions (blue sky and a slight zephyr wind) our finals weekend started with a tough draw against Scottish stalwarts and recent winners Glasgow Academy.
Giles Legg and Adan Yates continued their unbeaten run to win the top match and in spite of a great front 9 of two over par, Gavin Bradbury and Michael Stent were subjected to a golfing masterclass of 28 strokes (9 under par!) from their tartan adversaries and unsurprisingly went down to lose heavily, meaning it was all down to our last pairing of Lewis Casserley and Toby Clifton-Holt. All square with 5 to play, a barrage of long putts and birdies from the Celtic pairing meant that Lewis and Toby narrowly lost on the 17th.
This early demise meant that we were able to play the next day in the Solihull Salver at Brancaster aka Royal West Norfolk Golf Club (along with other first and second round losers), a competition that we managed to win most recently in 2013. This year on the back of a valiant and gritty effort from all 3 parings we collected 90 stableford points which was good enough to put us in second place out of 28 schools albeit one agonising point behind Eton. This great team effort secured our place in the Committee Bowl matchplay finals the next morning against Birkenhead school and with all 3 teams playing marvelously to remain unbeaten we took our rightful place in the finals against Ardingly school. With a full 3 days and a late night watching the rugby world cup, the team ran out of steam despite a great win from Toby and Lewis meaning we went down 2-1 in the finals meaning we received a commemorative ‘noggin’ sized glass to commemorate us reaching the finals. For full details please visit http://www.graftonmorrish.org.uk/.
All in all a great few days, although ‘nearly but not quite’ springs to mind. If you are a low handicap golfer (2 handicap or less) and would like to play competitive old boys golf for Millfield in the Grafton Morrish (as well as a sister event ‘The Brent Knoll Bowl’ in March every year), please email firstname.lastname@example.org as it would be great to get some new blood to ensure that we get our name back on the trophy after a gap of over 30 years!