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TOURNAMENTS | THE ROYAL TROPHY

One for the Ages

Dr Brian Choa reports on last month’s Hong Kong Golf Club Championship, which produced one of the best come-from-behind performances in the event’s storied history.

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Daniel Wong

his year marks the 125th since the Hong Kong Golf Club’s inception – and the 2014 Club Championship gave us stories that are fully worthy of such an historic milestone. It began on the first weekend – at the quarterfinal stage – with more than a few surprises. Doug Williams’ surprisingly poor record in this event continued as he was removed by the veteran John Blackwood, whose fine play was to take him to the semi-final. Reigning champion Tim Orgill’s removal by occasional competitor James Barrington was even more unexpected. Threetime winner Max Wong’s sub-par win against the formidable Stuart Murray in their match, however, was a portent of things to come. Another fancied player was two-time victor Arnold Wong, arguably the finest putter in the Club. Arnold had a tremendous escape against Tony Taylor, a very fine striker of the ball, in their encounter after coming back from being 2 down with 2 to play before clinching the match on the 21st hole. In the first semi-final, Max played the promising youngster Leonard Ho. Max was too strong for Leonard and steadily pulled away to win by 4&3. The Blackwood-Wong match featured some very fine golf from both players, but Blackwood’s short game uncharacteristically 58

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deserted him and he succumbed 3&2, just when he looked to be fighting back. The result: an all-Wong final, Max against Arnold, to be decided over the traditional 36 holes. A more thrilling final has rarely been seen! The weather was fine and dry, there was a brisk easterly breeze, meaning conditions were ideal for such a match. Over the course of 36 holes, few punters would have given Arnold much of a chance, despite his excellent golf and record as a winner, such is Max’s record and recent form. However, from the time Max took four to hole out from the edge of the third green, Arnold pulled away. 4 up for Max Steady play brought him round in approximately 71 strokes, a round in which Max won only one hole, and then only be holing out from a bunker. The putts would not fall, the longer shots were erratic and Max found himself 4-down at lunch. Before long, Arnold was 6-up as Max dropped three shots in a row from the par-5 third, which he again failed to par. At this stage of the proceedings, Max seemed almost defeated by the game. But the drama was only just beginning; 6-up with 12 to play, Arnold gave Max HKGOLFER.COM

a small opening when a short putt horseshoed out of the hole on the seventh: 5-up. Into a strong wind, Max then played a brilliant 4-iron to within a few feet of the pin at the par-3 eighth and birdied. At the long par-4 ninth, which was played into the teeth of the breeze, both players had to scramble, but it was Max who his third consecutive hole after he saved his four thanks to a deft pitch. He was now only 3-down heading into the back nine. Max hit the green at the par-5 10th with his second after braving the greenside pond and duly birdied, but to his credit, Arnold matched him with his own four to salvage a gritty halve. At the next hole, and for the first time in an hour, Arnold held the upper hand but failed to convert an eight-foot putt for a birdie and what would have been four-hole advantage. At the 12th, a stout par-4 that was playing in excess of 470 yards, Max once again put his approach to within a few feet of the pin for another win, but Arnold replied superbly by holing a midlength putt for birdie to regain his 3-up lead. Surprisingly, neither player birdied the relatively straightforward par-5 14th – the pair having the hole with fives – meaning Arnold held a three-hole advantage with four tough closing holes remaining. Surely that was enough. Not so. Max played a sublime pitch to four feet for birdie after a stupendous drive at the 15th to reduce the deficit to two holes, and then followed that up with arguably an even better birdie at the 16th after a fine iron. Incredibly, Max was now only 1-down and his putting woes of the morning round forgotten. At the par-3 penultimate hole, Arnold made a costly slip by bunkering his tee shot. When he failed to save par the match was all square for the first time since the second hole of the morning. At the final green, Arnold then bravely holed from five feet to stay alive, so down the 37th they had to go. The momentum was all one-way now, and no one was surprised when Max holed from all of 35 feet for a birdie three and his fourth victory in this ancient event. He played the last 13 holes of the match in six-under-par, which must surely rank among the finest of performances in Club Championship history. Arnold could not in any way blame himself for failing to hold onto his large lead, for he had done nothing injudicious nor been guilty of any golfing indiscretion. It is not often that a player can lose a six-hole lead and feel justly proud of his own performance and the part he played in the drama, but this was such an occasion. In the “Junior” Championship – for players with a handicap of 10 and above – long-hitting Brendan Ma triumphed narrowly over the steady Ken Anderson on the final green. HKGOLFER.COM

Roll of Honour – Hong Kong Golf Club Championship Winners 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956

Capt. H.N. Dumbleton, RE Dr. J. Lowson Dr J. Lowson A.S. Anton C.W. May Dr. J. Lowson T.S. Forrest T.S. Forrest J.H.T. McMurtrie C.E.H. Beavis T.S. Forrest T.S. Forrest E.J. Grist T.S. Forrest Lt. Col. H.N. Dumbleton, RE W.E. Monteith A.W.W. Walkinshaw K.M. Cumming W.H. Forest-Pegg Jasper Clark Jasper Clark Capt. C. Campbell A.B. Stewart A. Ritchie R.A. Lawson A.B. Stewart R.L.D. Wodehouse R.M. Smith A.B. Stewart Col. B.A. Hill Col. B.A. Hill H.U. Treland J.W. Shewan L.S. Andrews A.B. Stewart J.W. Shewan J.K. MacFarlane O.E.C. Marton M.W. Budd O.E.C. Marton D.S. Robb O.E.C. Marton A.K. Mackenzie O.E.C. Marton A.E. Lissaman J.T. Smith E. Groves H.P. McMullen G.G.D. Carter G.G.D. Carter D.L. Anderson K.S. Kinghorn J.K. Watson J.D. Mackie A.R. Petrie J.D. Mackie A.F. Sutcliffe

1957 1958 1959 1960 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014

F/Lt. A.W.J.K. Hall J.D. Mackie G.G.D. Carter G.G.D. Carter (1961) W.D. Leighton A.F. Sutcliffe G.G.D. Carter R.E. Patterson Dr. C.R. Gribben A.F. Sutcliffe J.D. Mackie Lt. Col. J.M.C.T. Thornton Lt. Col. J.M.C.T. Thornton W.D. Leighton H.M.P. Miles M.W. Park Dr. C.R. Gribben D. Clegg L.C. Carter L.C. Carter Dr. C.R. Gribben D. Clegg B. To Jr D.M. Innes D.M. Innes H.M.V. de Lacy Staunton Dr. B. Choa I.M. Copeland T. Lloyd H.M.V. de Lacy Staunton H.M.V. de Lacy Staunton Dr. C.R. Gribben I. Hindhaugh D.M. Innes S. Rowe J.W.C. Kwok D.J. Tonroe J. Stewart Dr. B. Choa R.T. de Lacy Staunton D. Moore R.T. de Lacy Staunton R.T. de Lacy Staunton A.C.C. Wong A.C.C. Wong A.N.W. Pettigrew R. Keys A. Osborn E. Saxvik E. Saxvik M.C.K. Wong M.C.K. Wong M.C.K. Wong R.T. de Lacy Staunton R.T. de Lacy Staunton T.D.L. Orgill M.C.K. Wong HK GOLFER・APR 2014

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