29 April 2014 Huntercombe Golf Day - Minty Clinch

Minty Clinch, Travel and Sports writer for a number of national dailies including the Times and Telegraph, kindly wrote and contributed this wonderful report of her day at Huntercombe:

"The fourth Lt Dougie Dalzell MC Memorial Trust Tournament took place at Huntercombe Golf Club near  Henley-on-Thames on Tuesday, April 29. By the time the cannon boomed for the shotgun start, 62 contenders were standing in their allotted spots in unseasonal fog.  On the first tee, two members of the Jennings family, Ross, who has taken over the running of the tournament from founding organiser, James Amos, for the next three years, and his father, Peter, who has never left this event without a prize.  First off, Ross and his partner, Charlie Starmer-Smith, Head of Travel at Telegraph Media, playing on his home course.  Next up, Peter and Simon Owen. Game on. 

Classy Huntercombe, designed by Willie Park Junior, winner of the Open Championship in 1887 and 1889,  was in no mood to take prisoners.  Certainly not in my group which tackled venerable turf saturated by days of intense April showers from the tricky par three 7th. My partner, James Hanbury, had recently returned from a fundraising walk from Coldstream in the Scottish borders to Wellington Barracks  in London. His 17-year-old son Alexander, inspired by the portrait of Dougie Dalzell in his Coldstream Guards uniform at Radley school, organised the charity marathon which raised £13,000  for the DDMT.  As Hanbury Senior combed the bluebell fields for maverick balls, he looked as if a gruelling sixteen day off road trek might be the easier option. 

At the 9th tee,  we read the moving inscription on Dougie's memorial bench that ends with his love for  Huntercombe golf course, a thought I clung to as my misfortunes increased.  Although we'd gorged on bacon butties in the clubhouse when we arrived a couple of hours earlier,  we cheered greedily when Colette and Olivia Dalzell drew up in a buggy laden with chocolate bars and fizzy drinks.  A can of Stella at 10.30?  I can't say we weren't tempted - and we wouldn't have been the first - but the group decision was no.  With the sun shining and the greens drying out, James hit his stride, ripping up the course where Ian Fleming  - and James Bond -  were members for 32 years.  Forget Royal St George's: this is where 007 earned the 9 handicap he deployed in his epic match with Goldfinger.   

Back in the clubhouse, we sat down to a delicious lunch of  melon and parma ham, roast pork with crackling and  lemon meringue pie before we faced the music of the prize giving.  As savvy organisers know, rewards should be distributed between skill and random fortune.  Ed Jennings, another member of the Isle of Wight family who learned their golf on the links at Freshwater Bay, topped the first category, winning a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for the shot of the day, a three wood holed from 230 yards at the long par four 14th.  The second bottle went to Sarah Groves for picking the seat with the green label stuck to the base. 

Then it was time for the major prizes. Would 37 four ball better ball Stableford points be enough to win one?  James and I rather suspected not – and how right we were. The two best pairs had a majestic 47 each, with the top prize, the Tournament silver salver and quality leather holdalls and shoe bags going to Ed Jennings and Jeff Carter on countback.  That left glamour girls, Niki Akhurst and Julie Lagden, who play on elite courses in the London area for Ye White Horse Golf Society, to collect the traditional Huntercombe jerseys  awarded to the runners up.  Once again Peter Jennings did not go home empty handed: given his level of consistency, it hard to imagine anyone less in need of the dozen golf balls he received for third place.

Lady Luck kicked in again in the draw for a pair of tickets to Lords for the test match on 14 June 2014 between England and Sri Lanka. Clearly this was Niki Akhurst's  day, but she generously put her prize up for auction.  She bid for it herself at one stage, but in the end the tickets went to Joe Parkin for £160,  a rewarding addition to the day's takings.   Many thanks to Anthony, Colette, Olivia and Angus Dalzell, the Isle of Wight  Jennings mafia - younger brothers, Andy and Harry, also played – and my long suffering partner for a highly enjoyable tournament that raised a total of  £6,500 for the DDMT.   See you all again in April 2015."

Minty Clinch - Travel and Sports writer