Stern and Stafford reign in the rain at SJA Golf Day

Report by Trevor Bond

There are lovely successful golf days and there are horrendously successful golf days. Sadly, the SJA’s attempt to stage their third official Golf Day fell strictly into the latter category.
We feared the worst as sixteen brave, foolhardy and determined members battled their way around the M25 to Surrey Downs Golf Club on Monday, May 22. Windscreen wipers were at full throttle, the traffic build up was more determined by the weather than road works and the sigh was : “Surely not, they won’t want us to play?”

But play we did – the “we” excludes your organiser and social secretary who legitimately claimed that the recovery from a broken wrist prevented him pushing his putter, let alone take out his three-wood. The sanctity of the Surrey Downs Club House – a quite marvellous development – and a bar which opened early made his plight all the more sad.
On arrival, your secretary, Steven Downes, a member of the club, was hastily purchasing himself some waterproof trousers from the excellent pro shop and David Richman and your organiser reconciled themselves to the fact that the sun would not make an appearance.
After the best bacon rolls we have yet been given, the starter – a lovely man called Ron – gave us a 20-minute starting delay. He might just as well said: “Take three hours if you want to gentlemen, no one else is going to be stupid enough to go out in this today.”
When the fearsome foursome of Chester Stern, Ian Stafford, David Richman and John Samuel teed off the rain was horizontal and the wind was gusting up to gale force 9.
Richman pleaded a sore hip and came in after 10, “Sam” followed a hole later. Talk of Scott of the Antarctic. The club offered a free sauna and showers – but it was Guinness that helped the main recovery.
Fred Harris – what a hero – hit a birdie on the ninth. Steve Downes reckoned it was a moor hen but Fred insisted it was a coot. Since even the ducks were taking shelter, who could tell the difference?
Meanwhile, out there, the rain stayed horizontal and the wind for those coming up the ninth was the last straw. In they came, one by one, soaked, shivering and suffering from golf hyperthermia. Except for two: Stern and Stafford (who was flying off to Germany that afternoon) . It had to be bravery, foolhardiness – or private money changing hands. They made all 18 holes and claimed: “What the hell, once you are wet through, you might as well stay wet through.”
Over a superb lunch of roast rib of beef, prizes were handed out. No real winners of course but it was agreed that for their sheer guts, Stern and Stafford should be given the new Phil Sheldon Memorial Trophy purchased at ” great expense” by your social secretary and generally agreed to be a fitting trophy. Sadly, prizes for Nearest the Pin and Longest Drive were held over until our next Golf Day, hopefully at Shirley Park in October.
Lawrie Hacker who was the “16th” player, arrived at 9.45 after taking three hours to drive from Stanmore and then admitted that the flu he had been suffering for the past week could end up with double pneumonia if he played. Cries of “Shame!”
In addition, Tony Smith. former sports editor of the Sunday Mirror and Terry O’Connor, who had to cry off playing for medical reasons, joined us for lunch and our lovely ladies Petta Naylor and Sandra Phillips, who now have their own events agency close by, popped in for a glass of wine. Just one? Surely not!
Finally our thanks to Surrey Downs who staged everything excellently. Despite the conditions, the verdict on the Peter Alliss-designed course was: “Great, we must come back again – in the sunshine.”
I am grateful for everyone’s efforts in supporting the day. It was welcome to some first-timers -Ian Stafford, Dave “Daisy” Ellis, Don Cave, John Samuel, Chris Turvey and of course to those who try to make it a “not-to-be-missed” day.
October chaps – hopefully Shirley Park and confidently (hic!) good weather.