By all accounts this was going to be one of the tightest doubles finals in recent years – and it did not disappoint. The argument in the week leading up to the final was, not who would win, but who was the favourites. There was various opinions but in all honestly it was probably too close to call. Martin Carter, 5 times winner of this competition was paired with last year’s winner Mick Scally – obviously a formidable partnership. Their opponents were the other half of last year’s winners, John Browne and the up-an-coming Gary Middleton. Gary and John had to give 3 shots in each round which would require them to score heavy in order to have any chance.
The opening blow of the final was struck on the second hole as Carter and Scally went ahead – only to be pegged straight back on the third. Browne then made birdie on the fourth to give them the lead which in turn was pegged straight back with Scally’s birdie on 5. This opening exchange set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the evening. Birdies were exchanged and putts were made from ridiculous places all throughout the opening 18 holes and all to no avail for either partnership. After 18 holes with Browne and Middleton at 9 under par and Carter and Scally at 6 under – the match stood at all-square.
The second round began as the crowd began to gather to watch was was becoming a fascinating battle. Browne’s putter went missing though in the opening 9 holes of the second round and Carter and Scally took a two shot lead for the first time in the match. Indeed Middleton had to hole from 10 feet on the 9th to keep it at 2 down. Middleton again got a 10 footer on the 10th to reduce the deficit to 1. With the final shot of the match available to Carter and Scally on the long 11th, a good tee-shot was essential for the Browne/ Middleton partnership. Browne managed to punch one up to 8 feet and Middleton duly knocked in the birdie for a half. Middleton’s putter was on fire at this stage and when he knocked in a tricky 8 footer on 12 to square up the match, it looked like the tide might be turning.
Middleton pitched to 5 feet on 13 and Carter pitched inside him. Browne’s putt did not have enough pace and died at the hole but Scally made the same mistake after him. Both Browne and Middleton missed the green on 14 giving Scally a free putt for the win – his putt very unluckily broke right at the hole. So with 4 to go, we were still at deadlock. Browne and Scally both managed to find the extreme left hand side of the difficult 15th green. Middleton then produced the match changing moment – he holed his birdie putt from all of 20 feet!! Carter tried in vain to follow but narrowly missed. One up with 3 to go and Browne once again left Middleton with a 8 footer for birdie which he duly obliged by hitting the centre of the hole. So at two up with two and with Scall missing from off the green for birdie on 17 – it came down to a 3 footer for par for Browne to win the shield. After missing some easy putts earlier in the round – it wasn’t a foregone conclusion but on this occasion the putt was struck firmly with confidence and in it went.
Browne, in his speech, thanked his opponents for a great match and thanked sponsor Donie Weldon for his many years of service to the club. Finally he thanked the putting machine that was his partner, Gary Middleton.