A howling gale welcomed the Winter Order of Merit players playing in round 16 on the Lakes course on Saturday 15th. With the greens running quick anyway, the addition of such blustery conditions made putting particularly difficult. Paul Clegg was probably the only person playing who seemed to have no problems with it all. Paul, off six, dropped just the two shots on the front nine having had back to back birdies on the sixth and seventh holes to end the front nine with 19 points. On the tougher back nine, he dropped just the one shot, this was on the par five sixteenth which was playing directly into the teeth of the gale. He finished with a magnificent total of 39 points and was the only player to break par on the day.
Paul said that there was no big secret to his success on the day, he softened his grip and took two more clubs and concentrated on making as smooth a swing as possible. Easier said than done when the wind is trying to knock you over and having to second guess the wind on every shot. Paul went on to say that he managed to keep his focus by playing positional shots instead of distance shots to plot his way around the course, this meant that he was always in a good position for the shot to the green. He was cut to four for the next round this weekend when the weather is expected to be kinder. Paul’s son Adam Clegg who is also a single figure handicapper didn’t fare as well as his father, he had to retire after four holes having injured himself during the week. Andy Webb, off seventeen, came in second with a brilliant 35 and was cut to sixteen for the next round. Nick Cunnington off three had another steady week, he like Neil Crees and Kev Hingle came in with 34 points but Nick took it on countback thanks to better scoring over the last six holes. Three players, Carl Causbrook, Darren Haughton and Graham Smith all came in with 33 points.
Adie Cunningham, who didn’t play this week, still holds a commanding lead in the overall table, he is 70 points ahead of Kev Hingle, Carl Causbrook is a further ten points behind him. David Copley, Graham Smith and Trevor Smith are bunched close together with Steve Anderson, Nick Cunnington, Fred Aspin and Peter Bagshaw completing the top ten. Fifty seven players have played in the competition so far this year; in the top thirty, only two players, Chris Wheatland and John Sparks, have yet to experience a handicap cut. Organiser Neil Harris said that this showed how difficult it is to win the competition. Neil went on to say that with six rounds left, the prize fund is looking very healthy. The top three each week share a portion of the prize fund but the rest goes into three separate funds. Some will go to the player with the best overall scores in the Saturday competitions and some for the top man in the Sunday rounds, this gives people a chance to win something even if they can only play on one of those days, the rest will be paid out to the top ten. The fund at the moment stands at £485 but if none of the rounds are cancelled due to inclement weather, Neil expects to finish with a prize fund somewhere around the £650 to £700 mark. Graham Smith, playing off two, leads the field in the Saturday rounds with a 163 points, 36 points ahead of Peter Bagshaw in second. Overall leader Adie Cunningham tops the Sunday list with 195 points, he is 70 points ahead of Dave Copley.
The Ladies played their round five Order of Merit in the same rough conditions. Ten handicapper Liz Haughton showed her class to take the win this week to move closer to the top of the leaderboard. Liz said that she was really pleased with the way that she kept her swing under control to plot her way around the course. Susie Ellis had another fine round to take second place and Hayley Hunt who started off in the competition playing off eighteen but now finds herself playing off thirteen, kept up the pressure to take third place. Hayley has a commanding overall lead with 97 points, Liz Haughton is in second place with 63.5 and Susie Ellis rounds off the top three with 53 points. There is still a long way to go yet and the weather could still play a big part in the competition.
Despite strong winds and rain, Neil Lowndes had a fantastic round in the February Seniors’ Medal. Neil, off nine, won the medal, division one and the lowest gross with a brilliant net 66. Three players were separated on count back after they all came home with a net 71. Jack Vernall, playing off his new handicap of fourteen, took second, Keith Heppenstall was third and Steve Taylor was pushed out of the money into fourth. Bob Harmes won division two with a net 70 on countback from Ian Kellam. Ian had the small consolation of taking the lowest gross in the division with an 89. Denis Watts took third place ahead of Derek Palmer, they both came in with net 72.