First Day Back at School in Oz

As the children in Adelaide go back to school England Captain Jonathan Plaxton continues his daily reports:
“First day back at school for children in Oz today and the weather reports say not to worry as it’ll be a poor day!  I don’t think so!!! A cooler day yes (20 degrees) but still so bright we needed sunglassese and warm with just a cool breeze off the sea. A great day after yesterday’s very warm 30 degrees with a warm wind from inland.
Whereas Royal Adelaide was marketed as the venue for The Eisenhower everything is actually focused around The Grange where all admin is located and facilities are of a scale capable of accommodating bigger numbers.  As a member’s club where many are acting as volunteers to assist (Ladies’ Capt was our starter yesterday) the reception has been very good even after last week’s loss of their playing rights when The Ladies took over the place! The course (Grange) is resiliant and in excellent condition despite all of last week’s ‘traffic’. Both courses are slightly inland with a good sandy base but surrounded by residential properties with gazebos and sun screens as opposed to decking or conservatories!!! We are told to take care when venturing ‘off piste’ but there is little in the way of rough ground as its mostly pine straw or sand waste land. 

One conversation between players will be of interest. When asked how many golf courses there are in The Cook Islands the young player replied in broken English there were nine. It subsequently transpired he meant holes as opposed to courses!!!!!

Once on the course (10th tee at 11.30) we had absolutely no problem following the ball in flight against such a blue sky! Following a five hole warm up some sense of more purpose / increased focus was required so a round robin match play event was hatched with each player pitting their wits against the others. Luke (who had not played the course previously) was on the receiving end of both his opponents 2 and 1 whilst Sam came back from two down to beat Dale 2 up. The two courses are similar but the two clubs differ emmensly with RA being akin to Royal Birkdale and The Grange along the lines of Foxhills for those who know it! I.e more corporate bias. After food we had a comprehensive debrief and discussion about the course with planners updated and notes added. Each player now has a detailed plan and course strategy which we will put to the test in our final practice sessions over the next 2 days. Good news that Paul Waring finished 6th at Madrid as we watched TV whilst eating. Team putting practice for 1 hour and then a return to the apartments in our hire car (a big Ford 4×4 as opposed to the Passat we booked!) Despite a couple of wrong turns no problems driving over here (on the left) but the car park is tight to say the least!! Evenimg dinner at The Tap Inn which is a golf themed pub/restaurant incorporating an indoor driving range! Strawberry milk shakes all round and a trick shot session on the range followed by an early night for all. Night! JP”

Follow the official news and updates from the Eisenhower Trophy that starts Thursday morning local time in Adelaide on the official website of the International Golf Federation.

England Retain Cup, Goddard Takes Individual Title

It threatened to be a close run thing but in the end England comfortably defended the Portugal Nations Cup on 25 under par, winning by six shots from the Portuguese hosts in second place. Luke Goddard added the icing to the cake by birdieing the final hole for a 14 under par total and snatching the individual title from Renier Saxton by one shot.

The day started in mixed fashion for the English team with a variety of fortunes down the first hole giving Luke an unlikely birdie 3, Jamie a fortunate par 4 and Sam a disastrous triple-bogey 7 when once again his ball did not mix well with a cart path, throwing it out of bounds into a villa on the right. This set the tone for all three players for the day but by the turn England had overturned the one shot deficit into a two shot lead, courtesy of a an opening 34 (-3) from Jamie and a 37 (Ev) from Luke.

Renier Saxton of Holland covered the front nine in 31 (-6) and at that point it looked like the dutch could be the closest threat but it was Portugal that came back at the English with Jamie´s playing partner Tiago Rodrigues pulling out an eagle at the 10th and following up with a birdie at the 11th. A dropped shot for Jamie on the 12th hole gave the Portuguese player a four shot swing on the opening holes of the back nine which increased to five following a further birdie at the 14th. However, Jamie kept his composure very well over the closing holes and when his birdie putt on the 15th dropped he followed it up with superb birdies on the 16th and 18th under pressure to reduce the deficit further, swinging the tournament in England´s favour.

Sam never recovered from the opening hole but kept his cool to get the better of his Portuguese playing partner which effectively assured an English victory in the event of a tie. However it wasn´t required as Luke played superb golf over the final nine holes returning a score of 31 (-5) that also gave him the individual title, with Renier Saxton failing to improve on his outward half.

The fireworks began at the par three 13th hole when Luke’s ball just evaded the cup for a hole-in-one, a shot he matched at the par three 15th hole when again his tee shot ended within tap-in range. A short missed eagle putt on the 16th was fortunately not costly for Luke who then made a fantastic up-and-down on the 17th for a par. Two solid long shots to the heart of the final green and two putts from the lower tier were enough for a birdie four and the English celebrations could then begin, both for the team and for Luke as the individual medallist.

The first congratulatory message received by the English team was from Eddie Pepperell, still recovering back at home from the virus that prevented him from joining his colleagues this week. We all hope Eddie will be back in good form soon and hopefully his name will be appearing on several England team sheets next season.

The three players present can now look forward to a break, this is Jamie´s final tournament for this season and he is due a rest that sounds like it is long overdue. My best wishes go to Sam and Luke in next months Eisenhower Trophy, they have defeated some big names this week and hopefully they can take the winning feeling over to Adelaide for more English success.

For final results click here.

Portugal Still Lead but it´s England´s Day

The hosts continue to lead the Portugal Nations Cup but it was England that turned in the best performance in round two, returning a team score of 134 (-12) courtesy of a pair of 67´s from Luke Goddard and Sam Hutsby. Jamie Abbott also improved on his first round score but he can consider himself unlucky in only returning a 72 (-1) when his golf deserved better.

All three England players covered the front nine in 34 (-3) strokes and Luke set the early pace, only a final green three-putt preventing him from equalling the course record of 66. His two round total of 137 leaves him in second place in the individual standings with one round remaining.

Jamie, following in the group behind, was well positioned to post a similar score but a curious incident on the 12th green (or more accurately over the 12th green!) rather spoilt the momentum he had built up. Following a well positioned tee-shot his short iron second looked set for the middle of the putting surface but the ball lodged itself in the branches of an overhanging tree and failed to reappear. Despite our best efforts to clamber up the trunk and into the foliage within the five minutes allowed it was impossible to locate and identify the ball and so he was forced to return to the middle of the fairway to play his fourth shot. The resultant double bogey returned his score to -1 from which he made no further progress.

Sam also suffered a stroke of ill fortune when his tee shot at the 9th hole rebounded from the cart path and into the water hazard far beyond but the resultant bogey did little to halt his progress as further birdies at the 10th, 14th and 15th progressed his score to -6 for the day. The par five 16th and 18th holes promised further birdies but despite being greenside at both he was forced into two putting on both occasions and his score remained at -6, replicating Luke´s earlier 67.

England are well positioned going into tomorrows final round, they now lie four shots ahead of Belgium in third place and only one adrift of Portugal in front, with Jose Maria Joia continuing his efforts to win the tournament single-handedly. His second round score of 67 was one shot worse than yesterday but he has a commanding four shot lead in the individual standings.

Portugal´s Day in the Sun

England have made a quiet start to the 2008 Portugal Nations Cup with Sam Hutsby (76), Luke Goddard (70) and Jamie Abbott (73) producing a team score of -3 for the opening round. It was a case of gritting their teeth and battling hard for the English threesome, only Luke Goddard´s opening nine holes of 34(-3) gave a true glimpse of the team´s potential. However, in a scoreline reminiscent of 2007, they remain in touch at just five shots off the pace.

Sam got off to a disastrous start and an eagle on the final hole was the best possible outcome on a day when his score could have been much higher. Jamie Abbott played well from tee to green but struggled with the pace of the putting surfaces in his round of level par and meanwhile Luke consolidated his front nine total with a string of steady scores over the closing holes.

The first day undoubtedly belongs to hosts Portugal who returned a team score of -8, remarkably without talisman Pedro Figueiredo who was forced to pull-out on the eve of the tournament with a bronchus infection. Jose Maria Joia was chiefly responsible for their low team score, he returned a 66 (-7) that sets the pace on the individual leaderboard by one from Dutchman Renier Saxton.

England lie in 6th place at the end of day one with France, Holland, Austria and Belgium sandwiched between them and the leaders Portugal but it remains a tight affair and the English threesome are confident they can make progress tomorrow after completing the first day without really getting out of third gear.

Portugal Sun Shining on Nations Cup

Mid-September it may be but that hasn´t stopped the temperature soaring in the Algarve for this weeks second edition of the Portugal Nations Cup. England set off in blistering midday sunshine for yesterdays first practice round over the Ocean Course here at Vale do Lobo and the golf promises to be just as hot with strong teams from several European countries vying for the title won last year by England.

Ireland must start as favourites this time round, after a string of fantastic summer performances. What a summer they have had; European Champions once again, Home Internationals holders in both mens and boys events, all spurred on by the achievements of Padraig Harrington in the professional game.  Defending Champion Shane Lowry leads their challenge with fellow Eisenhower team member Paul Cutler and young gun Alan Dunbar making up a strong threesome that lost out only on countback last year to England.

All four home countries are present with Scotland making their debut in the event. Palmer Cup and Home Internationals player Gordon Yates leads their team who will be hoping their first experience of Vale do Lobo is a memorable one. Wales could also challenge, Zac Gould being the most experienced team member in a young side.

Of the continental teams present, France catches the eye more than most. I had a close up view of Mathieu Bey at the international match between France and England and despite struggling a little with the putter this could be his week in conditions he will surely be comfortable with. Other individual stars on show include both British Amateur Champions, Renier Saxton for Holland (mens) and the highly impressive Pedro Figuiredo (boys) of Portugal. Both will need team support if they are to challenge for the main title.

As for England, the week threatened to start off disastrously with Eddie Pepperell falling victim to a virus on the eve of the flight to Faro. However, Sam Hutsby stepped into the breach at extremely short notice, he made it from the practice ground at Liphook to Gatwick Airport in about five hours, surely some sort of record for ‘last-minute´stand-ins.

Today (Wednesday) sees team members and captains (gulp!) compete in the Am-Am, a curtain raiser for tomorrows main event. Luke, Jamie and Sam will be finalising their preparations in an environment surrounded by sponsors and members, providing an excellent opportunity to give something back to our superb hosts whose warm welcome and hospitality are an equal match to the warm welcome afforded by the Portuguese sun.

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