Skittrall and Goodall the lone Sidmouth seniors to win in match at Axe Cliff


- Credit: Archant

Recently, the country’s top meteorologists went into conclave and emerged with the gloomy prediction that we are going to suffer a decade of miserable, wet summers, writes Charles Oram.

Cue for a spell of the most glorious sunny weather we have seen for ages!

Sidmouth seniors took full advantage of this last week with trips on successive days to Axe Cliffe and Ilfracombe to do battle with their counterparts there.

The Axe Cliff course was designed by James Braid, who is credited with inventing dogleg holes. No doubt emotionally affected by the sight of the azure sea which borders the course, and the sound of breakers slapping on to Seaton beach, the Sidmouth side struggled to contain their neighbours and went down by four-and-two.

There were pockets of resistance, however. The sixteenth hole is extraordinary. You hit over a cliff to a green you cannot see, and hope you can find your ball when you climb down to the bottom. This was not a problem for Brian Skittrall, though. He found his ball on the green and popped it into the hole for a birdie. He and Doug Goodall recorded the only Sidmouth win by a margin of four-and-two.

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Paul Blay and Brian LeMasurier looked good for another plus mark when they raced into a five hole lead after 13, but somehow their opponents won the last five holes to square their match.

The following day, the seniors’ side travelled to Ilfracombe on another wonderful sunny day. Their hosts provided a huge plate of sandwiches for the team after their long trip to the north Devon coast!

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Perhaps it was overindulgence in this feast - or the distraction of the marvellous views out over the Bristol Channel - that handicapped the Sidmouth side, as they succumbed by five matches to one. They had to wait until the final hole of the final match before recording their one victory, by Dennis Gilson and Jerry Dewhirst.

If James Braid is celebrated as the inventor of the dogleg, Harry Vardon is famous as the originator of the Vardon grip. The two men won a handful of Open championships each. In August 1905 they played a match on the Sidmouth course. Braid took 75 strokes (including a triple bogey seven on the 16th hole). Vardon’s score was even higher - 77 in total. It is recorded that the course was difficult due to the prolonged drought. Take heart, seniors - even Open champions sometimes struggle in the sunshine.

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