Week eighteen of the Winter Order of Merit saw yet another first time winner; nobody has won it more than once, although a couple of players have come close. This week’s scores reflect the cuts in players’ handicaps over the past eighteen weeks of the competition. Immediate past Captain Jim Wheeler was this week’s winner with thirty six points. Jim said that he didn’t have a spectacular round but just played steadily to his handicap; he was cut by two shots and will play off twelve in the next round. Neil Harris also had thirty six points but was pushed back into second on count back after a poor back nine. Neil was the only player still on his original handicap in the top half of the table, he was cut by one shot and will play off four this week. Three players returned a score of thirty five points: Steve Anderson had the better back nine and so took third place, he will now play off six. The other two, Martin Boughton and Ian Cunningham, were tied for the fourth spot. Paul Jenkinson retains the top position in the Order of Merit with a twenty five point lead over Ian Copley. The consistent Steve Anderson climbs two places into third. Dave Copley has moved back up into the top five, he has jumped from seventh to fourth, organiser Neil Harris leaps ten places into a tie for fifth with George Grant, they have a hundred and sixty one point six, only point four behind fourth placed Dave. Week eighteen winner Jim Wheeler has the biggest move of the week going up eleven places from thirty eighth to twenty seventh. Thirty eight players have seen their handicaps cut in the series so far this year and with only six more games to go, anybody making a run could win it. A hundred points separates first from twentieth but with fifty points on offer to the weekly winner, this could soon change.
With only one game to go in the round robin knockout stage of the Winter League, it is extremely tight at the top of most of the four groups. In group one, Gary Graham and Kevin Burdall have eight points and look favourites to be one of the top two to go forward to the quarter final; a point from their last game would mean that nobody could catch them. Steff Dutton and Alan Bennett have six points as have Peter Zimmer-Smith and Peter Key: only one pair can go on to the next round so both need to go for the win. In group two, Bernard Bell and Neil Crees and the team of Bill Skinner and Graham Day have nine points, however if they were to lose their final game and third place pairing of Dave Morgan and Iain Bain were to win theirs, they would all have nine points and it would depend upon count back. Matt Asher and Ben Gasson lead the way in league three with eight points, Les Kowal and Jason Giblett are only a point behind them. Kevin Hingle and Andy Webb are on six, so it is all to play for. In the final group, Mark Hibbitt and Ray Gladwinfield have already qualified for the quarter finals with a perfect score of ten points, and are the only team to go into this weekend in a relaxed frame of mind. Behind them, it is all to play for, Peter Dickinson and Peter Smith have eight points and Steven Chisholm and Steve Burgon have six. The weather forecast for the weekend hints at a cold and possibly icy weekend, this could throw a spanner in the works!