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Over the weekend of the 14th and 15th April, a team chosen from the Sussex Under 14 Performance Academy squad went to Rookery Park Golf Club, near Lowestoft in Suffolk to play a new friendly fixture against Suffolk Under 14 boys. To ensure that the experience of taking 10 boys to stay in a hotel overnight was as stress free as possible for the Team Manager, a healthy squad of parents made up a group of 24 travellers all the way to the north of Suffolk for the weekend.

On the Saturday afternoon, with everyone having arrived safely, the team were fed and watered before going out on a practice round on what would be seen very quickly as a tough course measuring almost 6800 yards from the white championship tees. Curtailing the high spirits coming from the excitement of a weekend away and getting a meaningful practice round was a challenge but we did manage it. Two parental three balls also played the course with less effect than the boys!

Minimal disruption during the evening was followed by a good sleep and an early breakfast so that appropriate warm ups could be had before the 9.30 start time. The Team Manager’s selection for the foursomes was linked to the room sharing arrangements so that the boys playing together could discuss tactics long into the night – some chance. The Manager’s selections proved to be right as the morning foursomes unfolded and the success in pairing selections has led to a late call from Jose Maria Olazabal to become part of his Ryder Cup management team!

The match against Suffolk had been arranged because the playing standards of the two teams were very similar – Suffolk get regularly beaten by Essex and Hertfordshire just as we come up against strong counties like Surrey. So, on the face of it, the competition should have been equal. As it turned out, Sussex won the 9 holes foursomes by a handsome 5 matches to nil with the two star players Joshua Davis and Joel Funnell winning 4 and 2. Nathan Longley and Jack Sutton were 1 down with three to play but won the last three holes to get an excellent 2 up win and to go into lunch 5-0 up was a surprise but a reflection of a dominant display.

With a whitewash in the morning, it would have been easy to have become over confident but the boys went out with a strong and positive desire to win well again. They carried that out but the resistance from the Suffolk team was much stronger and they started to put some points on the board. Team Captain Cameron Henderson had a tight match against the top Suffolk player and finished on the 18th with a well fought half point before Nathan Longley put the first winning points on to the Sussex total by winning both matches against two good Suffolk boys. Joe White and George Ounstead had comfortable wins but Jack Sutton, Joel Funnell and James Huggett found their opponents too strong on the day. Tim Finnerty had the unfortunate experience that has happened to everybody at some time of an opponent being several down fighting back, getting on a roll and eventually halving the match. The trouble in that situation is that you only remember the loss of the last few holes and not the good play which might have put you 4 up with 4 to play. There will be other days for Tim. In the last match out, Joshua Davis played against the newly crowned Rookery Park Junior Open winner and with a significant age, size and length off the tee disadvantage, “Bubba” Davis (He’s a leftie) showed great composure, focus on his own game and a seriously good short game to win by a massive 6 and 5 margin. He wasn’t at all put off by his opponent’s game or reputation and provided a lesson to all in not being overawed by apparently superior opposition. In a team of great performers, there could only be one Man of the Match and that’s Joshua.

It was a great trip, a wonderful learning experience and most of all a real boost to the team’s confidence. Suffolk were fantastic hosts and many thanks have already been passed to them.

Arrangements have already started for the return fixture in Sussex in 2013.

Ian Jaggard

Team Manager                                                Please click here for the match result


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