The long awaited final was played at Blackwood on Sunday, July 11th, in cold and very blustery conditions. Glenelg were a formidable opponent, going in undefeated and with two of their team having not lost a game all season. The course was presented in very good condition, with some tricky pin placements and preferred lies in place. A brief team chat from Paul McDonald and myself and we were ready to get underway, with the line-up unchanged from the semi-final team.
Nick Oborn, with caddie Richard Gregory, got us started at number 7. He made great contact with his drive down the tree-lined par 4 first, but once it got up above the tree line the wind got it and not sure if it was still in play Nick hit a provisional. Pleased to say he did find his original ball in play, however it was no help as he lost the first hole. I got word that he turned 1 down and when I did eventually catch up with him at number 16 got the very pleasant news he was 2 up. From a distance I saw him shake hands on the 17th green, so the first win of the necessary 4 was in.
Ryan Bak, who has been playing some excellent golf was next out at number 6, with Simon Keane as caddie. He wisely took an iron down the first, but again he lost the first. From then on he tells me he struggled and at nine was 3 down. At 14 I got the bad news he was 4 down, needing to win the next 4 to extend the match. I saw him then make a great par from the back of 15 for 3 down and an excellent birdie at 16 for 2 down. Unfortunately that is where it ended as his opponent, James Bridgen, got up and down from the greenside bunker at 17 by sinking a 10 metre putt for par. Ryan’s attempt at birdie just missed. A loss 2 and 1, so now 1 all.
Ryan Sugars, with brother Troy controlling the remote buggy, playing at 5 also wisely took an iron at number 1. Not the best contact but in play short of the fairway bunker. Ryan has also been playing good golf with a great winning record. Unfortunately the form was not as good as I saw Ryan hit some very uncharacteristic wayward shots. He was also 3 down at the turn but fought on well, sinking a putt from off the green on the par 3 14th to get it back to 2 down. But then a loss on 15 saw him down 3 and running out of holes. A great approach at 16 to just over a metre and Ryan was still in with a chance. Unfortunately his putt slid past and the match was lost 3 and 2. Now we were behind 2 matches to 1.
Alex Nitschke got a tough assignment playing at number 4 against 14 year old Kade Bryant, one of the Glenelg players who had not lost a match all year. Alex has been playing well and I could see he was very determined. He also had the advantage of Mark Demasi as his caddie. Alex has rarely had a caddie and Mark has rarely caddied so they did take a few holes to get used to each other with Mark subtly correcting some of Alex’s reads on putts. Alex was also behind at the turn when he lost the ninth having been square or 1 in front for the first eight holes. Obviously on the back 9 the player/caddie relationship really got working and Alex went on to completely turn the match around and win at the 16th, 3 and 2. Everything was now tied up at 2 matches all.
At this stage I will skip to Matt Wilson, with Simpson Cup Captain Jamie Smith on the bag and partner Samantha along for moral support, playing at number 2. Matt has been very reliable and has not lost a match at number 2 in Bonnar Cup and I was naturally hoping for one more win. After being behind early, Matt was the only match up after 9, being 3 up. I did not catch up with Matt until the 15th hole, where I saw a great wedge to 3 metres for an uphill putt for birdie. When his opponent, Ben Magi, could not get down in 2 from the mound at the back of the green, Matt had two putts for a comfortable 4 and 3 win and to even the ledger for the team at 3 all.
Captain Tim Cece, with Tyson Settre caddying, has had some great battles at number 3. He was the one of the only players to get ahead on the front nine, but a 3 wood out of bounds into the car park on the driveable par 4 ninth meant a loss and he turned square. The match remained that way until 14 and then a loss at 15 meant he was one down. He asked me how we were going and I let him know we had the 3 in, with just him and Andrew to go. At that stage I did not know how Andrew was going. Tim and his opponent, Sam Raschella, halved 16 and then at 17 a great bunker shot by Sam to gimme range meant Tim headed down number 18, 1 down, knowing he had to win 18 and that he may have to go extra holes to get that fourth win.
Andrew Nakone, with father Andrew on the bag, was again last out at number 1. Andrew struggled with accuracy on the front nine and was always 1 or 2 down. He did tell me he missed a putt of just over a metre to get back to square at 8 before hitting the trees with his drive on number 9 to lose that and turn 2 down. Again I did not see Andrew until the 15th which he lost to get back to square, having really turned the match around on the back nine to be 1 up after 14. He asked me how we were going, I told him and let him know we needed either him or Tim to win. He looked a little concerned so I did tell him ‘no pressure.’ Taking that on board, he made the best contact with a drive down 16, a solid iron to pin high, a putt that slipped a good two metres past and then a good par saving putt to be 1 up. On 17 his drive was way right on the 16th fairway but not as far right as his opponent, Simon Gallie. Simon put his second into the greenside bunker and on advice from his caddie, Andrew hit a magnificent wedge from over 110 metres into the wind to about 4 metres.
Not able to be in two places at once, almost simultaneously as I found out later, Tim won the 18th to be all square as I saw Andrew take 2 putts to win 2 and 1 on 17 and get that important fourth match in. A magnificent four and a half to two and a half win for the Bonnar Cup. Tim did tell me he was dreading having to play extra holes so was very relieved to hear that Andrew had won at 17.
Thank you to all of the caddies who provided great support to the players on what was a tough day out in the wind and cold. Thank you to all of the members and committee who came along to watch and support, especially the Simpson Cup players. Special thanks to Paul McDonald for managing practice sessions, being at matches when the Simpson Cup could spare him and providing sound ‘golf’ advice to both the team and individual players on the way around when he could see something that might help them. Special thanks also to Captain John Thomas for taking photographs at the final and for advice, organisation and support throughout the year in what was my first year as a Team Manager. Thank you also to Warren Mercer for the coaching of players, his significant time commitment and everything that he does to support all of the Pennant players.
Thank you to Glenelg for a great final played in very competitive spirit and to the Bonnar Team who knew what to do and just got on with it with very little input from me. Captain Tim Cece gets a very special mention for support and advice with team selection, especially the subtle changes made to the playing order way back in round 3 on the 23rd of May at Blackwood, and for reminding me of the need for the occasional ‘team talk.’