Founded in 1924, it is competed for today by the old boys of 64 English and Scottish public schools which each field five foursomes pairs, making 640 competitors in all. The sheer size of the "field" - plus the hundreds of supporters who routinely turn up - is part of what makes the "Hewitt" a unique sporting event. The tournament has a rich history, frequently pits average golfers against famous internationals, and produces moments of golfing pressure simply not experienced by amateur players elsewhere. It is a scratch competition.
Regular readers will know that Shrewsbury has a good record in the competition with a purple patch in the 1980’s and 90’s including competing in six finals, winning three of them. Two years ago we reached the semifinal but last year drew the previous year’s winners, Tonbridge, in the first round. Tonbridge have played in fourteen finals in the last thirty years! The handicaps of their team ranged from plus three to two, a very powerful side.
At the draw in January, we had hoped for a slightly easier ride to enable us to get up some momentum and were very unimpressed when the golfing gods decided to give us another go at Tonbridge, this time at Royal St George’s at Sandwich!
The dreadful weather in the late winter and early spring meant everyone did not have as much golf as they would have liked and our practice day at Woburn in mid-March was snowed off! A couple of injuries, a wedding and a set of golf clubs failing to join the same flight as their owner meant we were not going to be at full strength. Having said that we have built up a good solid squad over the last few years and have plenty of experience so we arrived at Sandwich with some optimism.
We had two very good practice rounds before commencing battle once again with Tonbridge on Thursday afternoon. Playing up top, Jon Howse (R 1998-03) and Laurie Briggs (G 1996-01) came up against a former England International and one of the best amateur players in the country. One to Tonbridge.
The Campion brothers Will (M 1980-84) and Jonty (M 1981-84) with one hundred and fifty eight matches between them found themselves up against two golfers with over two hundred appearances! It was a close match but a couple of bunkered tee shots were crucial. Two to Tonbridge.
James Mainwaring (R 2005-10), who had come down as a reserve last year and played well in the plate, made his debut playing alongside Will Painter (R 1967-71), with a hundred and sixteen appearances, but again the experienced Tonbridge pair were just too good and the match was over. At pair four Angus (I 1975-80) and James Pollock (I 1995-00) lost at the same time.
The original plan was that fifth pair James Skelton (O 1980-85) and Andy Pollock (I 1971-74) would win the concluding point but sadly the script did not work out that way! However, they were in a very close match and only one down with Tonbridge in trouble on the fifteenth when they were called in with half a point.
So for the second year on the trot we were off to play in the plate at Princes Golf Club. Our opponents were Kings School Canterbury, runners up in the Hewitt in 2015, so it was going to be another tough match. Top pair Jon Howse and James Mainwaring set off at a canter eventually winning four and three.
Second pair Laurie Briggs and James Pollock were two up early but got hauled back and found themselves one down with one to play. They had a chance to win the hole but unfortunately the putt just slid by and they lost one down.
The final pair, James Skelton and Andy Pollock, were two up early but back to all square after six. The match was neck and neck the whole way with never more than one in it. Also one down on the eighteenth tee, James’s birdie putt just shaved the hole but Kings were unable to hole their putt to half so it was down the nineteenth, then the twentieth, then the twenty first and so on until the seventh extra hole when James got over exited trying to hole a twenty foot putt for the match and the captain failed to hole the four footer back.
Not a great Hewitt for Shrewsbury this year but some good golf was played and more experience gained for the younger players. A very good debut from James Mainwaring who played well in both matches and some great golf from Jon Howse.
The good news is there are some younger players appearing in their twenties and early thirties and the search goes on for scratch or low single figure golfers who we do not know about. Salopians have traditionally been reticent to put themselves forward for events they are not invited to. But if we don’t know you are out there we can’t invite you!
The Halford Hewitt is one of the top amateur golfing events of the year with many top amateur golfers and some professionals who have returned to amateur status taking part. Royal Cinque Ports and Royal St Georges are two magnificent golf courses. When Shrewsbury were at their most successful we had seven county gofers playing in the team. If you are a low handicap golfer this is an event you must play in and which you will definitely enjoy. We do make a contribution to people’s expenses to help with travel and accommodation. Please get in touch with Andy Pollock on email@example.com if you would like to find out more.