Winter League Final – Review


2014 Joe Bray Winter League Winners – from left to right, Watty Kenny, Michael Scally, Kathleen Bray (sponsor) & Martin Carter (captain)

Saturday last, 9th March saw the finale of the Joe Bray Winter League for 2014. To say a gale was blowing across the Collinstown course would be an understatement. This meant that scoring was not going to be at a premium – grit and determination was required to fight the elements. The three teams that qualified for this year’s final were very evenly matched and it was truly impossible to say that any of the three were stand-out favourites.

The team that finished top of the group stages consisted of Tommy Archbold, Maurice Middleton and Paddy Gorman. With choice of starting position for the final – Tommy’s team decided to go last and keep an eye on the opposition. The second team in the group stages was Martin Carter’s team. Martin’s team-mates were Michael Scally and Watty Kenny. Martin decided to go first in the final with the intention of posting a score. The third team to qualify for the final consisted of John Browne, Des Carter and Kevin Flanagan. John was looking to win this prestigious shield for the second year in a row and his team were second to tee-off on the day.

Winter League Runners-up - left to right, Kevin Flanagan, John Browne, Kathleen Bray (sponsor) & Des Carter

Winter League Runners-up – left to right, Kevin Flanagan, John Browne, Kathleen Bray (sponsor) & Des Carter

And after some early banter on the first tee-box, the 2014 final got underway. John Browne’s team were the only ones to make birdie on the opening hole giving them an immediate lead in the final. Indeed John’s team got off to a flyer, birdying 6 of the opening 8 holes. This gave them a distinct advantage as both Tommy’s team and Martin’s team struggled to overcome the blustery conditions. Martin’s team were only 1 up for the first 7 holes and Tommy’s team had an early bogie which knocked the adrenaline out them. Martin Carter is renowned for his fighting qualities though and he led his team’s resurgence with birdies on 8, 9 and 10 and then followed with a superb chip-in on 11 – they had clawed themselves back into the final.

Indeed Martin’s team kicked on to record an exceptional 10 up score for the opening 18 holes , 9 of which was achieved over the last 11 holes. John Browne’s team had trouble on the back 9 and finished a shot behind on 9 up. Tommy’s team were in turmoil though. They had two bogies and couple that with 6 lip-outs – nothing seemed to be going right for them. They finished the opening 18 in only 3 up which effectively ended their chances of winning.

And so it was basically a two-horse race with 18 holes to go. John Browne’s team again birdied the opening hole to level the match once again. Both teams had upped their standard at this stage and although Martin’s team had a very credible 6 up for the front 9, they only found themselves level with 9 to go – John’s team shot 7 up for the same 9 holes. John’s team birdied the 10th to go ahead for the first time since the early part of the opening round. But the final 8 holes brought all the drama that one wishes to see in a final.

Third place in 2014 Winter League - left to right, Tommy Archbold, Kathleen Bray (sponsor), Maurice Middleton & Paddy Gorman

Third place in 2014 Winter League – left to right, Tommy Archbold, Kathleen Bray (sponsor), Maurice Middleton & Paddy Gorman

Both teams, birdied 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 which meant that with 3 holes remaining, John’s team had a 1 hole lead +22 to +21. When all three pitches from Martin’s team missed the 16th – the outcome was starting to look bleak for McClair’s lads. But always the fighter, Martin hit a superb chip from the right-hand side of the green. The ball dropped dead-weight into the hole which immediately swung momentum back to Martin’ team again. Martin then stitched 17 to apply further pressure – pressure that John’s team succumed to when the captain missed a five footer for birdie on 16. Both Martin and Mick Scally pitched the 18th green but nowhere near the pin. Browne and Flanagan were both on the 17th – 4 and 6 feet respectively. But before they could putt – ‘Scallers’ knocked in a raker on the last. The roars of the crowd was heard back on the 17th and suddenly one of the putts needed to go in – else the shield was going to Carter’s team. Kevin Flanagan’s putt broke early and missed on the low side of the hole leaving all the pressure back on the captain John Browne. In fairness – Browne hit an excellent putt that caught all of the hole but somehow horse-shoed and sat on the lip – it was all over McClair’s team had triumphed right at the death.

Martin’s speech afterwards was very articulate. He thanked all the sponsors of the competition, he thanked his team-mates, the opponents in the final and all the competitors in the competition. He thanked the Ladies for the superb spread they put on in the clubhouse afterwards. Finally he had words of praise and remembrance for the late great Joe Bray who the tournament is played in honour off. Joe will never be forgotten by the Collinstown players for the lifetime’s work he put into the club and the friend he was to all that played there.

Kathleen Bray also said a few words to many in attendance in the clubhouse. She explained how happy and proud that Joe would have been to see the club flourish as it has and to see his name on such an enjoyable competition. Kathleen sponsored the winners prize as she has done since the inception of the competition.

Finally the club would like to thank all the sponsors of the competition – Kathleen Bray for the winner’s prizes, John Browne for the runners-up prizes and Niall Conaty from Costcutter Collinstown for the weekly group winners. The competition was as always a huge success and enjoyed by all that played in it.

Click here for full results from the final.

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