2014 Australian Hickory Shaft Championship – Report

Recent experience has taught us two things about being at Carnarvon Golf Club in late November. First thing is that it’s likely to be warm; second is that you are more than likely to see some outstanding hickory golf. Calendar year 2014 ran true to form on both counts. The nearest Bureau of Meteorology weather observation station to Carnarvon is at Sydney Olympic Park, and guess what? It recorded November’s highest temperature – 39.9° – on Friday, 21st November . . . the same day as this year’s Championship. The golf was pretty good too, and we’ll get to that soon.

As has become the expected norm, Carnarvon was well set up for hickory play. The tees were forward-ish, and the pin placements were generous without being condescending. Thirty players registered for play on the day, with the list of starters included a number of visiting players – Andrew Wilson and Rob Downie from the Illawarra, Darron Watt and Lachlan Wilson from Wagga Wagga, and Julian Pickrell from New England. Queensland numbers were down on previous years, but the Sunshine State was ably represented by Alan Grieve, Ross Haslam and Andrew Baker. Making their hickory debuts were Stuart Maurice, Stephen Nyul, Neville Rider and Ian Dicking.

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So, Who’s Going to Run Second?

Play got under way exactly on time fifteen minutes early, and – from the outset – it was clear that Alan Grieve was going to be very difficult to beat. After an opening par, Alan carded par, par, par, par, par, par and par. The run of pars had to come to an end sometime, and a birdie on the ninth hole broke the sequence. This remarkable one under first nine meant that Alan turned five shots ahead of his nearest competition . . . and well in control.

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There have been some disastrous one hole scores recorded in Open championships around the world. John Daly ran up 18 shots on a par 5 at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational; Tom Weiskopf managed a 12 on the par 3 12th at Augusta in 1978; and Tommy Armour carded a 23 at the 1927 Shawnee Open . . . the week after he had won the U.S. Open. On the 10th hole, Alan recorded his highest score of the day – a bogey 6. Pars at the next two holes were followed by a bogey 5 at the 13th, before four more pars and another bogey 5 at the last. Alan’s two over 74 was six shots clear of second spot, and – taking the event and the conditions into consideration – an exceptional round of golf.

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Back in the field proper, competition was fierce. Manly professional Phillip Baird opened with four bogies, and then carded five pars on the trot to turn on 40. Wagga’s Lachlan Wilson managed five pars and three bogies, but a double-bogey 5 on the par 3 7th saw him on 41 at the 9th. The seventh was also the temporary undoing of Wagga’s other representative Darron Watt. His four pars and four bogies were tempered by a 6 at the same hole, and he turned on 43. Alan’s fellow Queenslander Andrew Baker recorded four pars and five bogies for a nine hole score of 41.

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Following the half time break, Darron put together six pars, two bogies and a birdie at the 15th to make the best second nine of the day – a one over 37. His 80 was good enough for the runner-up spot on a countback from Phillip Baird, whose 40 was made up of 4 pars, five bogies and a birdie on the par 5 17th. Lachie put together a 40 of his own with five pars and four bogies for 81, and fourth place. Andrew had some trouble with par 5s on the second nine, but still recorded four pars on his way to a 44, thus rounding out the top five.

2014 Australian Hickory Shaft Championship – Mere Mortals Section

In the handicap portion of the event, things unfolded at a much more sedate pace. Generously handicapped hickory first timer Stephen Nyul had the best first nine with a net 33, which included a par and a birdie. The previously mentioned Andrew Baker turned with 36, as did wily veteran Jim Glenday. Lachlan Wilson came off the ninth green with a net 37, and was closely followed by Tony Doggett and Andrew Wilson with 38s. With 39 – and still in the hunt – were Brian Keane, Phillip Baird, Neville Rider and Ian Hamilton.

Strange things have been known to happen on the second nine at Carnarvon, and they did. Stephen Nyul fell of the pace with four fat ladies on his card. Jim started with a 7, and then carded two pars followed by four solid bogies which – although he faltered a little on the last two holes – were enough to get him over the line. Lachlan Wilson’s previously mentioned second-nine 40 (net 36) was enough to get him second place, and meant that the Wagga pair went home with a metaphorical silver medal apiece. Stephen Nyul and Andrew Baker finished with 74s, while Tony Doggett and Andrew Wilson returned 76s.

For the statistically minded, the easiest holes were the par 3 seventh and twelfth holes. Average scores on both were 0.85 over par, with nine pars recorded on the 7th and eight on the 12th. Stephen Nyul birdied the 7th. The toughest hole on the course was the par 3 3rd, averaging 1.41 over par – no problem for Brian ‘Curly’ Keane though, he carded a 2.

Alan Grieve – 2014 Scratch Winner
Jim Glenday – 2014 Handicap Winner

The usual customary thanks go to the Management and staff of the Carnarvon Club – the meal and hospitality was of its usual exemplary standard . . . even if the beer was a bit warm.

That’s it for another year – see you at Carnarvon in 2015, although it may be a little earlier in the year, i.e. closer to the cooler months.