After three years, the HMC Foursomes National Finals were able to return to the usual matchplay format between the eight schools which had won through their regional qualifying rounds.
The eight schools were Bedford, Bromsgrove, Loretto, Millfield, Reed’s Stowe, Tonbridge and Wellington. The average handicap of the 48 players was 1.0 which represents a step change from 2019 at Rye where the average was 4.4, which had been fairly consistent for ten years. Whether this change is due to the change in the WHS handicap scheme or an actual improvement in the standard of golf now being played in schools is difficult to discern. In those ten years, the number of schools which run elite golf programmes has increased steadily.
The 2022 Finals were played at Little Aston which provided an ideal venue in every way. The course is one of the best inland courses in the country, laid out by Harry Vardon and fiendishly bunkered by Harry Colt. The course was in wonderful condition – fast true greens, lovely turf and splendid surroundings. Although many of the players could hit the ball prodigious distances they soon learned that position and course management were essential, along with a good short game.
The teams were placed in two Groups of four, organised to be of equal standard. Each school played the other three within their group; the overall winner of each group would then contest the Final with the winner of the other group. The players clearly enjoyed the foursomes format where every shot matters and the matchplay element takes away the grind of having to make a score. There were many boy/girl pairings which worked well.
In Group A, a talented Loretto team managed to win all three games although Millfield gave them a close run on Tuesday morning. The three Wellington pairs also took Loretto to the 16th or 17th greens. Bromsgrove didn’t manage to win a match but their three boy/girl pairs did take a good proportion of matches to the 17th – they were certainly a competitive team in a high standard event.
In Group B Reed’s School ominously won all three matches 3-0. Bedford, strong on paper, were disappointed not to challenge Reed’s more but a few missed putts here and there made all the difference. Stowe also managed, against the odds, to beat Bedford and ended up with two wins out of three. Stowe won the first HMC Finals in 1981 but have only made a couple of appearances in the finals since – a welcome return! Tonbridge were missing two of their Upper Sixth players and were not at full strength; they were not fazed by playing against much more experienced players and felt they learned a lot.
The final between Loretto and Reed’s was a high quality match with fine striking and very good scoring. With so many good players in both teams it seems invidious to pick out two individuals but the Reed’s pairing of Riccardo Fantinelli and Rocky Chapman is one of the best ever to grace the HMC Foursomes Finals. As 14 year olds they were instrumental in winning the 2018 HMC Foursomes at Luffenham Heath for Whitgift, before they moved to Reed’s. Riccardo was runner-up in the 2021 British Boys Championship after losing a sudden-death playoff. Last year the pairing won the Best Pair Trophy at Huntercombe in the HMC Foursomes which, due to the pandemic, had to be played as a 36 hole stroke play competition. In this year’s final they came the 17th hole 1 up against the Loretto top pair of Archie Wyatt and Max Halflonts. Loretto were in control of match two and Reed’s had already won match three. All depended on this top match. The 17th at Little Aston is a classic risk-reward hole, 388 yards downhill, downwind with the green protected by a lake covering 7/8 of the front. Loretto sensibly hit an iron down the middle – Rocky steps up with a driver and hits a towering drive down the right which finds its way on to the green over 350 yards away! – a sensational shot in any circumstances. Loretto are forced to take on the very tight pin and inevitably find the water, effectively losing the match. Reed’s were very worthy winners, eight years after their last HMC Foursomes victory in 2014.
The other six schools played the usual 9 hole stableford for the Tankard; Bedford and Wellington were tied on 41 points but a countback gave the trophy to Bedford. The Best Pair Trophy went to Jack Peters and Freddie Tucker from Bedford with 17 points.
All the matches during the two days were played in very good spirit and there was a happy atmosphere throughout. Foursomes matchplay is a wonderful format for nail-biting competition played in a friendly and sociable setting. Thanks are due to the school coaches who kept play running smoothly, helped with starting and coped brilliantly with all the logistics needed to take part in an event such as this.
We are hugely grateful to Little Aston for allowing us to play on their lovely course which has been the venue for many prestigious championships. The staff were unfailingly welcoming, helpful and interested in all the competitors and coaches. We are particularly grateful to the Club Manager, Iain Burns, who also presented the prizes and Mitchell Green who dealt with all the nitty-gritty details. Spending two days at the club left us all very impressed with the attention to detail that the club achieves – the greens, fairways, tees, bunkers and surrounds on the course, the practice ground and the beautiful unique putting green that provided so much entertainment after the matches, along with the comfortable clubhouse facilities and excellent catering.
Next year we return to Luffenham Heath for the National Finals to be held on Sunday 2nd and Monday 3rd July 2023.
Winners: Reed’s School . Team: Riccardo Fantinelli, Rocky Chapman, Matthew Hawke, Thomas Hawke, James Brash, Skye Slijepcevic. Coach: Jimmy Wallis
Runners-up: Loretto School. Team: Archie Wyatt, Max Halflonts, Calum Dawson, Cameron Mukherjee, James Tipling, Pedro Galegas Marsal . Coach: Rick Valentine
Tankard: Bedford School Team: Archie Mathers, Fin Rennie, Jack Peters, Freddie Tucker, Alex Robins, Ed Wade. Coach: Keith Thomson
To view the photos, click on one of them and then scroll through:
Congratulations to the eight schools who have reached this year's National Finals at Little Aston on 27th and 28th June - you can see the winners of each Region by clicking the Regions to the left.
This will be the first 'normal' HMC Finals since 2019 - 2020 was cancelled due to Covid and the 2021 Finals were held as a 36-hole team stableford at Huntercombe. This year we revert to the matchplay round-robin format.
The HMC Singles will be held on the Red Course of The Berkshire on Tuesday 4th October. I will send Entry Forms to all HMC Foursomes-participating schools on the 1st September 2022.
Entry Forms for the 2022/23 season have been sent to all current participating schools. If your school has not received a form or your school wishes to join the HMC Foursomes competition, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Entries close on March 31st 2022
A total of 62 players, 49 boys and 13 girls, made up a high-quality field for the seventh playing of the HMC Singles over the Red Course of The Berkshire GC. 23 schools were represented and it is very clear that the standard of golf in schools improves every year.
The Red Course is unique in that it has six par 5’s, six par 4’s and six par 3’s. Over the past few years there has been extensive tree-clearance and, as a result, the condition of the grass and heather has improved greatly, the drainage is much better and the vistas on the course are even more dramatic.
Heavy overnight rain had left some wet patches so a decision to allow preferred lies was taken, but despite the wetness, the greens were rolling quickly and smoothly – many were taken aback at how putts kept on rolling past the hole. A gusty cold wind made conditions challenging and visits to the heather usually needed a hack back to the fairway rather than a pop at the green. These factors led to some slow rounds and the final group just managed to finish the short 18th in the gathering gloom.
There were many fine rounds of golf played – the boys’ event was won by Tyler Weaver from Culford with a gross score of 69. He was out in 39 but covered the back nine in an amazing six-under-par 30, missing a putt for 29 on the last green. Joint runners-up from Rossall were Sam Easterbook and Seb Cave who both scored 70. Seb covered the first nine in 30, again six-under-par, followed by 40 on the back nine. These nine-hole blitzes of scoring by Tyler and Seb just show the talent that these players possess – I’m sure we will hear more from them in the future. There were many others scoring in the mid- to low- 70’s and all the results are shown at the end.
In the girls’ event there was a tie on 74 between Gracie Mayo from Millfield and Charlotte Brook from Canford. Their two nine-hole tallies were the same so Gracie just won on the better last 6-hole total. Both players have faultless swings and strike the ball beautifully – a real pleasure to watch.
The Boy’s Team event was won by Rossall with 140; Reed’s School were runners-up with 147. There was a tie in the Girls’ Team event on 162 between Millfield and Wellington; Millfield were declared winners because their total included the lowest individual score.
A new Mixed Team prize was introduced this year for the school with the best boy and best girl’s score. This was won by Canford School with a total of 146 – 72 from Leo Vorobyev and 74 from Charlotte Brook. Millfield were runners up-with 147.
Next year's HMC Singles will take place at The Berkshire on Tuesday October 4th 2022.
|33=||Yago Rio Aja||Worth||85|
|37=||Theo Anderson Gannon||Sherborne||86|
|41=||Finlay Minter||Reigate GS||89|
|44=||William Ainsworth||Reigate GS||91|
|1=||Gracie Mayo||Millfield||74 ocb|
Boys Team Winner: Rossall 140 Runner-up: Reed’s 147
Girls Team Winner: Millfield 162 ocb Runner -up: Wellington 162
Mixed Team Winner: Canford 146 Runner-up: Millfield 147
To view the photos of the event, click on one frame and then use the arrows to scroll through.
Although it was not possible to hold the knock-out stages of the 20/21 season due to the pandemic, it was felt appropriate to stage the 2021 Finals in a modified format. Huntercombe kindly agreed to move the cancelled 2020 Finals to the equivalent 2021 dates and after consultation with the HMC schools, it was decided to hold a 36-hole scratch foursomes stableford event. Schools were able to enter two or three foursomes pairs which would play two rounds on one of the days. The overall winner of the HMC Schools Foursomes Trophy would be the school with the best stableford score over 36 holes from their top two pairs on either of the two days.
24 schools entered the event with 128 players. Covid precautions and outbreaks at their schools caused five schools to withdraw but after frequent changes to the tee-sheets, 19 schools with 98 players eventually teed off in the competition.
The standard of golf was high with 21 players having WHS handicaps of scratch or better; 85% of the field held single-figure handicaps. The course was in superb condition – lovely fairways and smooth-running surfaces on those notoriously difficult Huntercombe greens.
The event was won by Loretto School, travelling all the way from Edinburgh, who scored 140 stableford points. In addition to their fine golf, one could also admire the Loretto players’ approach to the game – positive, appreciative, respectful of the course and attentive to their playing partners. These attributes were, of course, seen in many of the teams and are important life skills that can be learned by playing golf in a team setting. Closely behind Loretto came Reed’s School with 138 points. The Reed’s pair of Riccardo Fantinelli and Rocky Chapman won the Best Pair Trophy with 75 points ( 3 under par) for 36 holes. Rocky and Riccardo are the current and previous year’s winners of the HMC Singles Trophy. There were many other excellent performances – the leading scores are shown at the end of this report.
Huntercombe was designed and built by Willie Park in 1901, the same year he designed the Sunningdale Old Course. The course has changed little in that time but it remains a fine test of golf. Accurate placement of the tee shot is paramount and the more canny players quickly realised that the driver was often best left in the bag. Nobody who played will forget the narrow drives on the 5th, 9th and 17th holes, the fiendish pin on the top level of the 8th green or the huge grass hollow in front of the 16th green.
The Club is a bastion of foursomes golf and the members gave a warm welcome to the young players playing a form of golf that is not always appreciated as much as it should be. Given the ongoing Covid infections, it would have been understandable to cancel the event, but the careful management in place at Huntercombe meant that our large event could proceed safely for players, coaches, members and Club staff. I am hugely grateful to the Club Manager, Marcus Lovelock, who embraced this event and helped so much in the planning and running of the two days. He welcomed every minibus load of golfers as they arrived, briefed them on the safety precautions at the club and helped with every detail. The Clubhouse staff were equally helpful in providing a splendid lunch in the marquee; all done efficiently and speedily so that players could get back on the first tee for their second round.
We were also lucky to have good weather for both days, as the photos below show. The Club Captain, Robin Badham-Thornhill and I followed the Rossall and Reed’s players and he was enormously impressed by their ball-striking and their deft skills around the greens. There will be many happy memories taken away from the event – the Radley pair who started with five consecutive birdies, the Reed's tee shot that landed and stopped on the perched-up green of the par 4 17th, the 12 -year old twin girls ( hcps 7 and 11 !) from City of London Freemens' School playing their first-ever 36 holes, and many more.
After a year that has been torrid for many young people, it was so good that these keen golfers were able to end their school year with an enjoyable final event on a lovely golf course in the sunshine.
|(best of two)|
|City London Freemens||101|
|Leading 36 hole scores||pts|
|Riccardo Fantinelli + Rocky Chapman (Reeds)||75||Best Pair|
|Tim Chan + Ollie Mukherjee (Loretto)||73|
|Charlie Roper + Sarah Mardani (Gordon's)||71|
|Seb Cave + Connor Owen ( Rossall)||70|
|Max Halflants + Archie Wyatt (Loretto)||67|
|Skye Slijepcevic + James Brash (Reed's)||63|
|Oscar Lent + Liam Colohan (Epsom)||62|
|Charlie + Jonjo Ashbrook ( Ellesmere)||62|
|Kieran Hogarth + Lydia Cryer ( Rossall)||61|
|Archie Mathers + Michael Roche ( St Alban's)||60|
|Finlay Cummings + Eddie Wade ( Bedford )||60|
|Dewi John + Joss Lerwill ( Millfield)||60|
|Leading 18 hole scores||pts|
|Riccardo Fantinelli + Rocky Chapman (Reeds)||38|
|Riccardo Fantinelli + Rocky Chapman (Reeds)||37|
|Tim Chan + Ollie Mukherjee (Loretto)||37|
|Max Halflants + Archie Wyatt (Loretto)||37|
|Charlie Roper + Sarah Mardani (Gordon's)||36|
|Tim Chan + Ollie Mukherjee (Loretto)||36|
|Seb Cave + Connor Owen ( Rossall)||36|
|Charlie Roper + Sarah Mardani (Gordon's)||35|
|Seb Cave + Connor Owen ( Rossall)||34|
|Kieran Hogarth + Lydia Cryer ( Rossall)||33|
|Skye Slijepcevic + James Brash (Reed's)||33|
|Oscar Phelps + Freddie Thorneycroft ( Radley)||33|
|Harry Gale + Tom Owen ( Abingdon)||33|
|Oscar Lent + Liam Colohan ( Epsom)||33|
|Calum Dawson + Euan Cooper ( Loretto)||33|
|Dewi John + Joss Lerwill ( Millfield)||32|
|Max Porteous + Sam Epstein ( Brentwood)||32|
|Archie Mathers + Michael Roche (St Alban's)||32|
|Patrik Wall + Nick Wall ( Bradfield)||31|
|Charlie + Jonjo Ashbrook ( Ellesmere)||31|
|Finlay Cummings + Eddie Wade ( Bedford )||31|
|Lawrence Jefferys + Alex Robins ( Bedford)||31|
|George O'Connor + Ben Campion (Radley)||30|
|James Bould + Ned Dawson ( City of London Freemen's)||30|
|Matthew + Thomas Hawke ( Reed's)||30|
|Alex Phelps + Evie Kircher (Gordon's)||30|
|Max Halflants + Archie Wyatt (Loretto)||30|
To view the photos, click on one of them and then use the arrows to navigate through them. If you would like any individual copies ask your coach to contact me and I'll send originals.