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Footballer Tries Hand At Sunningdale Foursomes

by Colin Callander - March 11, 2013

This week, former international footballer Andriy Shevchenko will face a new sporting challenge when he makes his debut alongside host club professional Keith Maxwell in the 79th Sunningdale Foursomes, played over both courses at the well-known Surrey, England, golf club.

The Ukrainian striker, who played for Chelsea between 2006 and 2009 and won the UEFA Championship League with Milan in 2003, is part of an impressive field that also includes former Wimbledon favourite Tim Henman, former Welsh rugby scrum-half Gareth Cooper, plus the usual eclectic mix of European Tour and Ladies European Tour players, club professionals and top amateurs of both sexes.

Andriy Shevchenko

Shevchenko and Maxwell begin their quest for the title with a first round match over Sunningale’s Old Course against Trevose duo Nick Gammon and Gary Lenaghan. Were they to make it through a couple of rounds, they could come face-to-face with last year’s champions, Jessica Wilcox of Blankney and England squad player Greg Payne from Chobham. A year ago, Wilcox and Payne defeated European Tour professionals Jamie Little and Liam Bond, 3 and 1, in a thoroughly entertaining final.

This year, Little and Bond start on the New course with a first round match against James Doswell of Highwoods and Beauport Park’s Colton Alleyne-Davis. The winners could play LET player Hannah Burke and Danny Field, the club pro at East Herts, should Burke and Field beat Steven Done from Royal Liverpool and one of Shevshenko’s Queenwood club colleagues, Mark Roberts, on the first morning.

Henman and his Sunningdale club partner, Terry Crawley, start on the Old Course with a first round match against father and son combo Mike and David Peel. Mike, a retired club professional from Stockport, made history last year when he teed up on the 50th anniversary of his first appearance in the competition.

Other pairings of note include former European Open champion Andrew Murray and his son, Tom, who plays on the Challenge Tour; former Tour players Andrew Oldcorn and Andrew Sherbourne; 2004 Volvo PGA champion Scott Drummond and Jamega Tour player Nick Algate; and current English international Jamie Rutherford and coach Lee Scarbrow.

Rhys Davies

The highest-ranked player in the field is former European Tour winner Rhys Davies, who played twice in the Walker Cup and partners fellow Welshman Cooper, who played 45 times for Wales and also toured New Zealand with the 2005 British and Irish Lions. More recently, Welsh professional golfer Lydia Hall credited Cooper’s fitness regime for helping her to win the 2012 Ladies British Masters. Davies and Cooper play husband and wife duo Trevor and Aileen Greenfield of Pyecombe in the first round.

All matches in the Sunningdale Foursomes are played under full difference of the combined handicaps. With male professionals, male amateurs, female professionals and female amateurs being allocated handicaps of plus 1, scratch, 2 and 4, respectively, it is by no means rare for women to battle through to the later stages.

When Wilcox won the title last year, she joined an elite group of past female winners that includes Joyce Wethered, Jessie Donald, Mickey Walker, Maureen Madill, Mary McKenna, Corinne Dibnah and Dale Reid. This year the likes of Charlie Douglass, Holly Clyburn, Lucy Williams, Annabel Dimmock, Gabriella Cowley, Daisy Dyer, Rachael Drummond and Charley Hull are among the women attempting to follow suit. Hull plays alongside fellow Woburn member Sam Towler while Douglass and Clyburn might be a tough duo to beat off four.

The Sunningdale Foursomes began in 1934 and but for a break for World War II and another in 1975 when the semi-finals and final were abandoned due to snow, they have been played ever since. Notable winners have included Wethered and JSF Morrison, Brian Huggett and Ross Whitehead, Jess Donald and Peter Alliss, Peter Oosterhuis and Peter Benka, John O’Leary and Sam Torrance, Ronan Rafferty and Roger Chapman, Carl Mason and Chubby Chandler, Richard Boxall and Derrick Cooper, Anthony Wall and Steve Webster, Luke Donald and Michael O’Connor, and Ross Fisher and Simon Grifiths. Neil Coles won three times (in 1962, ’67 and ’80) with three different partners.

Ireland’s leading amateurs celebrated a triple success at the recent Spanish International Men’s Amateur Championship at La Manga.

Twenty-one-year-old Reeve Whitson, from the Mourne Club in Newcastle, County Down, won the prestigious King’s Cup when he defeated Englishman Neil Raymond, 4 and 3, in the 36hole final of the individual event.

The victory in the event was the first by an Irishman since Darren Clarke won the title in 1990 and earned Whitson, whose father, Kevan, is the long-serving professional at Royal County Down, a place in the Spanish Open, to be played at El Saler from April 18-21.

Whitson’s triumph also ended a three-year English stranglehold on the championship. Matt Haines beat Tommy Fleetwood in an all English final in 2010, Laurie Canter defeated compatriot Stiggy Hodgson to win in 2011 and Jack Hiluta defeated Germany’s Marcel Schneider in Majorca last year.

At the start of the week, Whitson’s countryman Richard O’Donovan of Lucan had claimed Ireland’s first success when he shot 7174 to share first place alongside England’s Harry Casey in the 36hole qualifying event. Another Englishman, Jamie Rutherford, was third, with Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult inishing tied for fourth alongside a third Englishman, Ashley Chesters, and Will Jones from Wales.

O’Donovan and Whitson also teamed with Moyola Park’s Chris Sefridge to claim the concurrent Nations Cup for Ireland A with a 293 aggregate, two shots better than Spain A, represented by Mario Galiano, Juan Franco Sarasti and Toni Ferrer, and four ahead of England C, comprising Hiluta, Rutherford and Callum Shinkwin.

Whitson had little time to celebrate his Spanish success because he was named as part of a strong Irish team to compete in this week’s European Nations Championship (formerly Sherry Cup) at Sotogrande Golf Club.

Whitson is joined by 2012 Amateur champion Alan Dunbar (Rathmore), 2010 Irish Boys’ champion Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) – who finished ifth behind Haydn Porteous at the recent South African Stroke Play Championship – and Rory McNamara (Headfort), winner of last’s year’s North of Ireland Championship.

England claimed three successive victories in the championship between 2009 and 2011 and has named Nathan Kimsey (Woodhall Spa), Max Orrin (North Foreland), Garrick Porteous (Bamburgh Castle) and Toby Tree (Worthing) as they bid to wrest the trophy back from 2012 champion France.

Tree retained his Gauteng North Open title during a recent trip to South Africa while Kimsey showed similar good form Down Under, where in the space of a fortnight he posted three second place finishes in the Lake Macquarie Invitational, the New South Wales Medal and the Avondale Medal.

All four home nations send strong sides to the Costa del Sol. Wales has selected Jonathan Bale (Royal Porthcawl), Will Jones (Oswestry), Jason Shuflebotham (Prestatyn) and Ben Westgate (Trevose), while Scotland has picked Jack McDonald (Kilmarnock Barassie), Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie), James White (Lundin) and Matthew Clark (Kilmacolm) as they bid to emulate the success of countrymen Scott Henry, Callum Macaulay, Wallace Booth and Keir McNicoll, who won the event in 2008.

The Scottish side is captained for the first time by former European Tour player Dean Robertson, who is now the head coach at Stirling University. Robertson, the 1993 Scottish Amateur champion, is excited at the prospect of captaining his country.

“It’s a new challenge for me, and hopefully my experience can rub off on the guys,” the 42yearold said. “I’ve also got a bit of history in the Sherry Cup as it was then. I played in it a couple of times with the likes of Stephen Gallacher, Raymond Russell and Gordon Sherry.”

Last year France, represented by Edouard Espana, Mathieu de Cottignies, Adrien Saddier and Kenny Subregis, claimed a five-stroke victory in the team competition. Whitson tied for fifth in the individual event behind leading trio Robin Kind (The Netherlands), Kristoffer Ventura (Norway) and Jon Rahm Rodriguez (Spain).

Denmark’s Emily Pedersen has taken an early lead at the top of the 2013 Ping Junior Solheim Cup European Ranking. Pedersen, 16, defeated 2012 Junior Ryder Cup teammate Linnea Ström of Sweden, 5 and 3, in the final of the recent Spanish International Ladies’ Amateur Championship at Pula Golf to claim a 30 point lead at the top of the European list after the first of this year’s six qualifying events.

Pedersen came into the Spanish event fresh from victory in the girls’ 16-18 age group at last December’s Doral Publix Junior Classic in Florida, and she reinforced her reputation as one of Europe’s most promising young players with a superb performance at Pula Golf, where she finished fifth in the strokeplay qualifier before defeating Spaniards Irene Rollan and Harang Lee, and French duo Camille Chevalier and Anyssia Herbaut, on the way to defeating Ström in the 18-hole final.

Ström was the winner of the 2012 Swedish U21 Match Play and Stroke Play titles and the 2012 ANNIKA Invitational Europe. She is second in the European Ranking after the Spanish event, followed by Shannon Aubert (France), Jessica Vasilic (Sweden), Herbaut (France), Emma Svensson (Sweden), Anne Van Dam (The Netherlands) and Leonie Harm (Germany).

The next event that counts for Junior Solheim Cup points is the French International Lady Junior Championship at St. Cloud Golf Club on March 28-April 1. This year’s Ping Junior Solheim Cup is to be played at the Inverness Hotel and Golf Club outside Denver on Aug. 13-14.

Michael Daily was his country’s star performer as Scotland suffered a narrow 15½-12½ defeat in its annual Test Match against South Africa at Leopard Creek.

Daily, a 23-year-old from Erskine who finished sixth on last year’s SGU Order of Merit, won four points, teaming with Glenbervie’s Fraser Moore to win two foursomes matches while also beating Tertuis van der Berg twice in singles.

Moore won one of his singles against Dylan Raubenheimer but lost on the second afternoon to Louis Taylor. Scott Crichton of Aberdour was his team’s next highest scorer with 2½ points, including a singles win over Aubrey Barnard and a halve against South African No. 2 Zander Lombard.

The annual South Africa Test match forms the last part of Scotland’s eight week performance training programme, sponsored by Leopard Creek proprietor Johann Rupert and Aberdeen Asset Management. The home side won the inaugural Test in 2010, triumphed again in 2011 but lost last year when Balmore’s Fraser McKenna won both his singles matches and combined with Crichton to claim maximum points in the foursomes. This year, McKenna lost in his first three outings but took the notable scalp of South African No. 1 Porteous in the final singles.

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