Huge Galleries Greet the Return of Team League

The rekindling of some fiery rivalries was enough to banish the snow and herald the start of the latest Team League season. With the most famous teams in the game returning to battle for the title, the fans were frothing with excitement at seeing their favourite players. While housewives favourite, Ed Neale hogged much of the limelight, there was plenty of excitement for the likes of The Beamers’ Pumpy Adrian and Tony “One-Putt” Moss. And with Andrew “Slow”gier playing up to his pantomime villain status tremendously, the scene was set for some mouth-watering clashes.

Each fixture presented a real edge and had something for every type of fan. WK J Choi may have had their pants pulled down on each and every occasion in the last campaign, but they had a score to settle with Sultans of Swing who are fast developing the reputation of being the Spurs of Team League. So advanced is the animosity between the sides these days that one of the Choi players refused to take to the tee after a heated discussion over ball compression, leaving his two mates to do battle on their own.

Having calmed down, both sides took advantage of the reachable par 5 opening 10th hole by securing a half with regulation birdies. Parity was maintained through a further two holes with no inroads further under par being made. The deadlock was broken on the cocks-length 13th hole. Having witnessed one of their brethren barely get the ball off the tee box, Sultans of Swing managed to wedge on to 25 feet and hole a putt that their opposition couldn’t to wrestle the advantage. The deficit widened on the very next hole as Sultans made birdie at the par 5, as Choi wasted a huge 305 yard drive with some comical approach play.

The floodgates were declared officially open on the very next hole as another birdie from Sultans edged them a step closer to victory. Choi glimpsed a slight glimmer after a beautiful mid-iron into the par 3 16th was converted with the simplest of putts to keep the game alive. Having given themselves a chance, Choi then proceeded to play the 17th like Jean Van de Velde. Much like the hapless Frenchman, they ended the contest with trousers firmly out of position and another loss to add to their disappointing run. Sultans of Swing will look forward to once again bettering The Urbanites next week, while Choi have the daunting task of entertaining the A-Team – a fixture for which they will need a full complement of able and willing players.

It was a delight to welcome back The Beamers for the latest incarnation of the League. Having spent much of the winter in isolation, The Kiwis returned with a vim and vigour – and a distinct expectation that the could once more scale the heights of yesteryear. In front of them this week was an Urbanite team bulging with charisma and a plethora of adoring housewives behind the ropes on each and every hole. In fact, their tee-time had to be put back such was the congestion caused along 17 mile drive by the middle-aged Californian ladies making the trip out to see their toyboys.

Adding to the chaos was the multitude of golfing aficionados heading out to see the return of “Pumpy” Adrian and his monster hitting. He certainly didn’t disappoint as hit several 300 yard plus boomers that led his caddy to tie himself onto the advertising hoardings so not to get sucked in.

Having been away from the cut and thrust of competition for so long, The Beamers got off to the slowest of starts. A struggle on and around the opening green was followed by a Laurel and Hardy-esque performance up the next, handing a 2 hole advantage to The Urbanite duo. The bleeding was stemmed by consecutive pars before the game was virtually up on the 14th. Inexplicably, The Beamers failed to take advantage of a 312 yard drive as their lowly par 5 was trumped by another straightforward birdie. By this stage, the coating Urbanites were really starting to lord it up. Showing a swagger rarely seen on a golf course, The Urbanite boys with a 3 hole advantage, were starting to mix with the galleries, taking phone numbers and canoodling with some of their female admirers.

The Urbanite complacency at this point was matched only by the determination of The Beamers to right the ship and wipe the smugness off the Urbanite faces. The first step in the unlikely comeback was taken after a fine birdie on 15 that met with no reply. Having started off the round with a collective golfing amnesia, The Beamers started to turn back the clock as their golfing muscles once again remembered how they had once performed so effortlessly. A laser-like 7 iron into the 16th brought another hole their way and grabbed the attention of their opposition. Another birdie came courtesy of a healthy putt on the 17th green. When The Urbanites failed to convert from just outside 10 feet the game was unbelievably level once again.

Now with the blood pumping through their veins, The Beamers sensed the daddy of all comebacks was nearly on. However, after trailing behind The Urbanites off the tee, The Kiwis were unable to find the par 5 in two blows and would have to rely on some short-game mastery to snatch what now looked at best a half. The Urbanites were safely on board in two and heavily odds-on to make their birdie. It was now, under the gun once again, that The Beamers lack of competitive golf over the winter showed up again. Faced with a fairly straightforward pitch, they could get no closer than 25 feet. This was a putt that would have been meat and drink not so long ago, but alas, the touch deserted them as the ball rolled past the cup and handed The Urbanites a victory that in the end was somewhat fortuitous.

Benefitting from the melee caused by the Beamers and Urbanites galleries, the final match of the evening was able to get away with a healthy gap allowing them the requisite time to freeze over most shots, discuss putting lines at length and exchange delightful cutting soliloquies. In a match-up that goes beyond rivalry, The A-Team were properly fired-up to take on arch rivals Shaft. Tony “One-Putt” Moss was quoted in a recent article in Time Magazine as saying that the only thing that gets him out of bed in the morning “is the thought of giving (Shaft) them another hammering. Nothing gives me more pleasure in life than seeing Andrew Ogier returning from a cigarette break to see me pouring in another putt from 40 feet.”

This was never going to be anything less than a birdie-fest, as the two most prolific teams in the history of indoor golf took to the Links at Spanish Bay. It was interesting to see the bookmaker’s odds favouring The A-Team on this occasion rather than the reigning Champions. Speculation around the recent state of Andrew Ogier’s game may well have sparked this confidence in crisis in the team. Though Ogier refused to comment on reports of a recent break-up of his long-term relationship with swing coach James Vernon Ellis-Caird, rumours have been rife.

This was a pulsating clash with no fewer than 12 birdies (and no more, either) being exchanged over the splendid Monterey links. First blood was drawn with a predictably deadly A-Team display on the opening green. Birdies were exchanged on the next hole, thanks to a 57 foot gobbler from Shaft to halt the A-Team march. A hasty transfusion was performed as the game swung back to parity thanks to another tram-liner from the putters of Shaft as Moss contrived to miss from 45 feet.

With Shaft now feeling like they were in the contest, the banter started to flow and regular reference was made to the most recent clash between the sides and the forthcoming trip that the victorious Shaft are looking forward to. By now, Ogier was positively speeding along and on a couple of occasions actually hit a shot within 2 minutes of one of his teammates. The flow of banter only served to fire up Moss, Woods and Co as they reeled off a series of fine birdies midway through the back 9 which met little resistance. The only surprise was that Moss wasn’t consistently holing out from variety of postcodes. Each and every birdie was a result of a fine approach that required only brief concentration to convert. In fact, with the game home and hosed the only putt of length came from 45 feet on the final green to secure an 8th birdie of the night and a 9 hole score of 29!

Their quality has never been doubted, but on this form the A-Team once again look to be back to their best where only a miraculous performance can derail their title aspirations – either that or the disappearance of Moss’ beloved Bullseye putter.

Next week sees some mouth-watering match-ups of which Shaft v The Beamers will be most anticipated. It’s been a while, but when those two lock horns, sparks are bound to fly.


Competitions: UG Team League Smithfield