Stenson comes up to scratch

THE Stenson Shield remains as Suffolk Golf Union’s scratch inter-club knockout for 2010 and has, therefore, become the most prized trophy despite the long traditions of the Hambro Cup.

Suffolk Golf Union has made various changes. Post-match meals after Hambro and Tolly ties are now optional. Only if both captains and the host club agree will players sit down to eat after matches.

Courtesy rounds are also a thing of the past for all inter-club events. Instead visiting players can arrange a pre-match round but it will cost a standard fee of �15 a head whoever the host club may be.

It would have been pleasing if the Hambro Cup, introduced by Colonel Hambro in 1931, had become a scratch event with the Stenson Shield, a relative newcomer starting in 1985, as the handicap event for players with handicaps of nine or better.

This option, which I feel sure Colonel Hambro would have approved, was ignored this time around. Maybe, if clubs make it an issue at the next annual meeting at Rookery Park on March 26, things might yet change for 2011.

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There are five Stenson Shield ties on Saturday, April 10 which should get the season off to an exciting start. Haverhill, always competitive and with promising youngsters like Chris Vince and Oliver Cracknell, are at home to Felixstowe Ferry who have plenty of potential but too often under-achieve.

The Ferry have a solid backbone to their team with the likes of Nigel Fosker, Mel Pipe and Rhodri Harston.

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Rushmere lost to holders Fynn Valley at the first extra hole in a quarter-final tie last year. They have a solid group of players from whom to choose although there must be concern about the fitness of Michael Buck who has been unable to swing a club for some months because of a back injury. They entertain Rookery Park who reached the semi-finals stage last year before losing to Ipswich.

Perhaps Will Wright, now that he has announced his retirement from county golf, might make himself available for Rushmere.

The traditionalists at Aldeburgh have always concentrated more on the Hambro Cup than the Stenson. However they have the strength within the club to make a good showing in both events so long as their top players make themselves available.

Aldeburgh will be at home to Stowmarket in what promises to be an intriguing tie. Aldeburgh have Jon Wybar at Aberdeen University while Stowmarket have Patrick Spraggs at Stirling University. It remains to be seen if their commitments north of the border will prevent them from representing their clubs. One thing is for sure, Stowmarket’s Sam Forgan will not fly back from the States for the tie and nor will James Reiss of Aldeburgh.

The Stenson format, with foursomes followed by singles, is more popular in many clubs than the all-day handicap foursomes of the Hambro.

Diss can be hard to beat on their home course with players like Mark Farrow and teenager Chris Bartrum showing bright form last year. They entertain a Hintlesham team which, on paper, is as strong as any in the county. Hintlesham lost last year’s semi-final against Ipswich at Felixstowe Ferry but played without Rob Garlick, who would have been a key man. They can also call on former Suffolk Open champion Adrian Meredith, the left-handed Phil Westley and former Stowmarket regular Nathan Overton. It remains to be seen which club Jack Cardy chooses to represent. He is also a Felixstowe Ferry member through an agreement between St Joseph’s College and the seaside club.

There is a local derby between Southwold and Halesworth. Home advantage may tip the scales, as so often happens, but the visitors will be hoping that Alastair Hall plays for them instead of Bungay who are one of 11 clubs with a bye into the second round to be played on Saturday, May 1.

Others with a bye include holders Fynn Valley who will be delighted the news that England international Jamie Abbott is to have one more season in the amateur ranks. Ipswich, losing finalists last year, also have a bye.

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