A relatively subdued Saturday night out in one of Marbella's finest tapas restaurants (best patatas bravas in Spain, allegedly) was, quite literally, the calm before the storm. I must have written a million times that superlatives are very easily overused, but 'biblical' wouldn't really do justice to the volume of water dumped on the Costa del Sol in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The gladiators awoke to a sound akin to not only the four apocalyptic horsemen, but their mates & tennis partners too. Surely, the prospect of any golf being played, at least in the timeframes required for homeward travel was, much like Geoff's appetite, pretty thin.
As it turned out, the gods were clearly golfers, the rain pausing for long enough that we might get underway, behind schedule by a mere 15-20 minutes. This good fortune would dissipate rather rapidly, drops of rain falling steadily from the 3rd hole until the world fell out of the sky whilst we were playing the par-5 5th. The sheer volume of water meant play was impossible and, after waiting around for nigh on an hour, the decision was made to drive in, sparking much debate about the impact on the tournament & the destination of the Harey Cup.
The enforced break allowed for a refuelling stop - club sandwiches for most and, tellingly in the context of the results that followed, carbonara pasta for a chosen few. None of the bedraggled athletes knew the impact that split-second culinary decision would have.
Further debate ensued about the wiseness of trying to restart, but the cessation of the rain had allowed the course to make a miraculous recovery, so much so that it was easily playable some 30 minutes before we all eventually returned to our balls and resumed the matches. The decision was taken to shorten the final day to 9 holes, leaving some players in challenging situations but, for pyrrhical prevention for the winning team, it was the right call. This is what happened.
Match 1: Phil vs Simon
This match actually started behind matches 2 & 3, playing through on the short second once the logistical & plumbing issues had been sorted out by Simon. It's fair to say that the quality of golf on display was 'not high', both players trying their hardest to secure a vital point whilst battling to avoid the ignominy of taking home the wooden spoon (& the honour of organising the 2015 trip). Simon eventually triumphed 3&2.
Cup score: Team Spy 4 - Team Tom 3
Match 2: Geoff vs Tom
Tom started off hitting some really nice iron shots but struggled on & around the greens. Despite this, Tom found himself the beneficiary of an unfortunate clerical error by his opponent on the 1st to take an early lead. After a sense of normality on #2, Geoff taking the hole with a regulation par, Tom strung 4 nice shots together on the 3rd for a gross par, 4 stableford points and restoration of the 1-hole lead. The enforced break did not turn out well for Tom where his own clerical error meant he ate a club sandwich instead of carbonara (a pasta dish of seemingly magical powers). Tom never got going again, Geoff's consistent pars and bogeys sufficient to conclude the match on the 8th by a 3&1 margin. Tom's only consolation for not contributing any points to his team was the pleasing symmetry of 6 stableford points and 6 lost balls.
Cup score: Team Spy 5 - Team Tom 3
Match 3: James vs Nick
In the eagerly anticipated clash of the equally low handicappers, James was after a hat-trick of points and a first 100% Harey Cup return, whereas Nick was not only trying to win a vital point for Team Tom but (in the much-bantered absence of brother Julian) was also defending his family name at the top of the golfing pile. James got the match underway and drew first blood, a fine up & down from the greenside rough being too strong for a ball that had visited a hedge, rough and sand. A bizarre incident occurred on the par-3 2nd, a moment many a sports psychologist would describe as pivotal. In practicing for a birdie putt, James brushed the ball, meaning his 25-footer was now to save par. Two strokes later and the hole was halved, the missed opportunity to double his lead undoubtedly contributing to his car-crash golf on holes 3, 4 & 5 immediately before the rain-enforced delay. A narrow half on the short 6th meant James was up against it over the remaining three holes and, after a ridiculously long drive on the next hole, Nick's excellent par was enough to take the point 3&2 for Team Tom.
Cup score: Team Spy 4 - Team Tom 4
Match 4: Richie vs Charlie
Charlie was looking to rediscover his Friday form, restore some pride after Saturday's battering and maintain his 100% record in Sunday singles; Richie was still feeling the effects of Friday's gangnam-style night out and was far from his best. As it turned out, the threat of lost balls was the decisive influence, Richie battling to secure the Harey Cup with a win on the 5th yet putting 2 deep into the cabbage on the 7th swinging the match back in Charlie's favour. A half on the tough par-5 8th was enough to take the victory for Tom's team of miracle workers 2&1.
Cup score: Team Spy 4 - Team Tom 5
Match 5: Andy vs Mark
Mark started strongly in his quest to end six years of singles hurt for the Southport man, taking advantage of any error offered up by Andy, both sides of the storm break, to guarantee a half point on the 6th green. In sight of the chequered flag, like so many things over the weekend, Mark's memories of previous defeats came surging through him, as Andy won the long 7th to keep the match alive. Standing on the 8th tee, with a 100yd carry over water, Mark was shaking like the proverbial shitting dog. The o/b tee shot had a certain inevitability about it, although the outcome of the hole, & indeed the match, was far from certain. Sure enough, Mark found himself relying on Andy to miss a gimme-length putt to take an unexpected, yet ultimately vital, match-winning, point for Team Tom.
Mark won 2&1
Cup score: Team Spy 4 - Team Tom 6
Team Tom win the Harey Cup & complete the Miracle of Marbella
No trip like this is possible without its participants and, most importantly of all, its organiser. Hats off to Tom for an excellent choice of golfing venue.
I am the Part-Time Golfer