The Captain’s Winter Invitational – Yellow Ball Competition

What a great format Davey Boyce chose for his Captain’s Winter Invitational and an excellent turn out  ensured it was a day worth remembering. Before the shotgun start there were lots of questions about what Yellow Ball Format involved but by the end there was universal praise for the interest it created and the pleasure it provided. Thanks must also go to Ank and Pete for their input too.

With 20 bonus points to be added for retaining your yellow ball through to the end, keeping it in play was always going to be a priority, which is why cries rang out among those exiting the course and a group of players were seen with their noses in the dyke on the 18th. “Simmy, Simmy, Simmy, no, no, no!” they pleaded. For Gunger it was a repeat of playing Yellow Ball at Grange-over-Sands a few years back and for Jon Holmes, who carded 43 points himself on the day, it was one of those rare occasions when he resorts to prayer but the damage was done, on their very last hole. It may come as a consolation to them to know that they wouldn’t have won anyway but it did mean their total of 112 would put them last of the nine teams. Bill Hoyle had 46 points but could only stand and watch with Dave Clark as team mate Joel Barker sent their yellow ball into the pond beyond the 12th from the 11th fairway. For Joel it was part of an extraordinary return to golf as he hit four birdies for 19 points including an 8 pointer on the 17th in their total of 118. The draw threw up a few anomalies among which was putting husband and wife Di & Pete together with Ank playing gooseberry. The consistent Ank scored on every hole for his team and amassed 48 points towards their teams 130, putting them in seventh place. Sending a 71 year old man to start on the 5th didn’t seem to do any harm as he accumulated 48 points and dragged Captain Boycee and Robert Bell to a total of 137. Good to see Robert back on the course too.  Neil Shaw has been doing the club proud elsewhere but played third fiddle here to Vernon Edmondson and Tony Waugh, with Tony contributing 50 points to their 139 and John French was back with a bang leading Sue Driver and Helen Holmes to a tie for fourth place with their 139. Taking 3rd place were George Farquhar, Brian Dawson and Gary Turner with 142; featuring Gary’s top individual score on the day of 52 points, including 28 on the front 9. “That Ryan Carter can hit a long ball!” So said Dave Warren to all and sunder after witnessing the fact for himself; as did Peter Warren as the three put together 145 points to grab second place. But it would take a four ball to win it, posting a magnificent 156 with contributions from Richard Roberts, Geoff Freeman, Stephen Rowe and in his first ever comp Steve Milligan. A back nine of 71 points made all the difference.

So will this become the club Captain’s farewell piece as he heads to February 2nd’s AGM and a hand over to Ank? Could it become part of the fixtures? A lot of us are hoping so.

Next Natterjacks: this Saturday 29th & Sunday 30th January

This years AGM is this Wednesday, February 2nd 2022, starting 7:30pm at Millom Cricket Club

Report: Dave Ward

Sue Bilgri dazzles through the drizzle.

1st Sue Bilgri 24 points

2nd Doug Myers 24 points [Countback]

3rd Brad Steel 20 points [Countback]

What a fantastic turn out with forty four people showing support for what has become a popular winter competition which this time around featured 66 rounds. Twenty two people played twice and by coincidence twenty two people played once. The weather may have played its part with a heavy drizzle on the course for part of Sunday morning but that didn’t stop some folk recording good scores and that included our winner. Sunday also saw the improvised comp within a comp for eight players who played 18 holes but included their front nines in the Natterjacks. Thanks guys. Well done Joe Shaw.

It doesn’t matter what your handicap is, to win you’ve got to play well by your own standards and Sue Bilgri did just that on Sunday with four 4 pointers including one on the last. With limited range on her shots and a net total of just 32 strokes this had to be a victory for accuracy. In discussion with our handicap secretary afterwards he was keen to point out that for the ladies Silecroft is a very tough course off the red tees, making Sue’s Sunday effort all the more admirable. So, on a tough links, in the cold and drizzle Sue produced her best ever golf and proved a worthy winner. But only just, because also out on the course was one Doug Myers, ex- rugby star, ex-veteran fly fishing world champion who also chose this day to bring his best golf. Doug’s was a story of consistency with six 3 pointers and three 2 pointers, no blobs, no 1 pointers, just good golf the whole way. So many of us have stood on the eighth tee with a good score only to blow up, and there were some yesterday but Doug took seven points from his last three holes and five of those were from 8 & 9. But successive pars on 4,5 & 6 were at the heart of his round where all the effort Doug’s put into his golf finally paid off. His score also catapults him up the Order of Merit charts.

At this point it’s as well to mention the Natterjack 9’s bonus scheme for high scorers  – nobody gets cut – because changes to the course conditions and rules means your handicap remains unaffected. Do I hear a collective groan from the rest of us?

Third place was also won on countback, with Brad Steel squeezing past Richard Roberts by virtue of his better last six holes. Both had 20 points. Pars on 1,3,4,6 & 7 and no blobs made for a consistent run of points and rescuing a point on the eighth helped too. Richard [aka Joey] Roberts had the best start of anyone with 4,4,2 providing 10 points off the first three holes. He too rescued himself, with 1 pointers on the fifth and eighth and can consider himself unlucky to have missed out on the prizes. Both have added considerably to their Order of Merit scores.

A host of players carded 19 points, including Gary Turner, who is now down to a handicap of just 13 but managed pars on 3, 4, 6 and 9 in his Saturday round. Geoff Freeman had 19 on Saturday and was in danger of a really good score until the last two holes. “I lost a ball and made a real mess of it!” He told me. The pleasure of his beloved Hatters taking three points off Bournemouth might have redeemed his weekend. Martin George’s 19 included a 4 pointer on the seventh while Paul Goodrick was another to have a birdie on the 3rd. Peter Clark’s round of 19 on Sunday, playing off a handicap of 10, contained the most extraordinary run of 4 strokes per hole from 1 through to 7. Fives on 8 & 9 completed his round in just 38 gross shots. George van Boyd’s 19 on Sunday almost mirrored that; playing off 10, recording a gross score of 38. Dave Warren was also steady away, carding eight two pointers and one three in his 19. Very consistent guys! Sue Driver’s highlight in her excellent 19 was a par for 3 points on the sixth and with playing partner Chris Lloyd-Rogers carding 18, with a par of her own on the sixth among her 18 points, it was a quite a day for the three ladies playing together. It was a brilliant weekend for Joe Shaw, with a birdie on the 4th in his 19 on Saturday but his 37 points over 18 holes on the Sunday made him the winner of the impromptu eight man comp.

John Simpson’s good run of form continued, following his success at last week’s Winter Alliance at Furness. His 18 points here included four for three on the first and last. Our Order of Merit leader Tony Waugh carded 18 on Saturday with a four for three on the fifth being the feature, Ian Swarbrick birdied the 4th for four points in his Saturday round of 18 points. Joe Burch played both days and had 18 points of his own on Sunday, with 3 pointers on 2,4 & 7. If it was a battle of the elders between Joe and Dave Maclardie then it was match drawn as Dave also posted 18 points on Sunday, including four three pointers and a blob on the second. Joe sounded full of surprise after his round,“It’s really caught on, this Natterjacks ‘asn’t it?” He asked. Which was easy to answer. On his way back to form following his operations John French matched theirs with an 18 of his own and recorded five pars along the way. It’s ‘old v young bull’ for father and son James and Finn Mallon, 18 each means matters are even for the moment. “He played some cracking golf.” James tells me. “He just missed a six footer on the third for birdie, then hit a great shot into the fourth green which just rolled through.” Yvonne Goodrick added 18 points to her Order of Merit score and could challenge in the ladies division if she takes more opportunities. John Phillips scorched through holes 2, 3 & 4 with three pointers on each in his 17 points.  Helen Holmes boosted her Order of Merit tally adding 17 points with three pointers on the first and sixth. “I couldn’t putt.” She told me. Neil Robertson [aka Gunga] birdied the 5th & the 7th but a misfortune on the third held his score back. It was points on every hole for Pete Warren and pars on 4 and 7 in his 17 points and it was the same story for Alan Holmes who also had pars on 4 & 7 for his 17. Son AJ found it tough off his handicap of 9 but still managed 16 points and Diane Clark scored the same, with three three pointers in her 16. Dave Clark played both days and recorded 16 points on each with the highlight being a birdie on the third on Sunday which brought four points. Vernon Edmonson posted 15 points with two blobs but remains on a handy mark. The 4th & 7th provided good scoring chances all weekend and Jon Holmes was another to seize the opportunities with pars on both in his 16 points. Men’s Captain Davey Boyce had pars on the 1st and the 9th but an indifferent middle section left him struggling with 14 points. Alan Eastwood couldn’t carry his form from the Christmas comp into this but had the consolation of a par on the seventh in his 14. Joan Myers carries the lowest handicap of all the women, just 17. As mentioned before this is a tough course for ladies and Joan struggled over both days here, her best being 14 points on Saturday which included two blanks. Pars for 3 points on the sixth and seventh showed what she’s really capable of. It was a rare appearance in the Natterjacks for George Farquar whose consolation was the company of good pals, a par on the third and a point for Utd.

Anyone thinking they’ve had a bad day might take solace from Ged McGrath’s weekend, which he has given me permission to write about. Saturday was particularly bad, bringing just 6 points after scoring on only four holes. What is worth remarking on here is that he came back on Sunday and tried again. Things got a little better but not much, 11 points and four blanks. We’ve all known bad days on the course but as we all know and Ged was keen to point out, you put it behind you and move on.

Order of Merit

Thanks to your support we’re able to extend the prizes for the men’s event to include 1st 2nd & 3rd and fund a separate prize and trophy for the winner of the women’s. We will also be adding prizes of balls for 2s as of the next round. Just to clarify; it is all one comp on the weekends but two comps, men’s and women’s for the Order of Merit.

1st Sue Bilgri 24 points

2nd Doug Myers 24 points [Countback]

3rd Brad Steel 20 points [Countback]

Halfway through the Natterjacks and the Order of Merit is still wide open.

The story so far……

With half the season played and half still to come here’s a summary of who’s in contention and some of the likely outsiders. In fact, with the last round abandoned there are more chances to come than gone and anybody with a good run can still win! Just to remind everyone; the winner will be the player with the best six scores after the final day on 27th March. Some players are regulars in the Winter Alliance and might have missed out so far but could stage a late rally for the Natterjack title and with each of the six remaining weekends offering two chances to play and score there’s every chance for them to do so. But some players have already posted three good scores and might take some catching. So let’s get started with who’s done what and when so far and in no particular order.


Ian Swarbrick has played just three times but they total 55 points, including his 20 pts back in round 1. Peter Warren had a 20 back in November and has 53 from his best three rounds. Alan and Antony Holmes are among those playing Winter Alliance and while only having 33 points each could be among those who represent a late threat. Last year’s winner Geoff Freeman got off to a slow start of his defence but had an exceptional November playing four times and accumulating 57 from his best three attempts. Geoff’s regular playing partner [and brother-in-law]Dave Clark may become his biggest rival having posted 59 points from just three rounds. Men’s Captain Davey Boyce came close to winning twice, in rounds 4 & 5 and has 60 points on the board. Ken Noakes and Robert Bell have only managed two rounds each and have work to do off 32 points each. Dave Warren seems an unlikely contender but is due a good round and is playing off a useful handicap. Doug Myers is another to have only played three times but has posted 53 points from those. He is also playing in a four-ball which has produced consistently good scores. Martin George looked to be running in midfield until posting a winning score [on count-back] of 22 in round five and has 55 from his three best rounds. Playing partner Vernon Edmonson could be another dark horse. With a useful handicap and 53 points banked he is well capable of adding a significant score. Joe Shaw and Ryan Carter have only played once each and are level on 17. With lots of potential, great handicaps and age on their side the future could be theirs. Peter Clark’s three rounds may have only produced 52 but Peter is a proven winner, though off his lowest ever handicap! Paul Goodrick has spent a lot of time away and only played once but with 19 to his name could be a contender if more available in 2022. Tony Waugh must be the current favourite, with 63 points banked, another 19 pointer that could count and the most consistent score so far. With his highest handicap to date and with talent to burn his tilt at the title may depend on his travel plans to Australia. His broken ribs are healing and he’s hoping to be back for round 7 this month. Brad Steel has 52 and is another dark horse, having yet to play to his full potential in this competition. Stephen Lloyd had 20 points and a podium finish to his name in round 1 but will he get the opportunities? James Mallon has 50, all from early rounds but sons Finn and Todd have struggled so far. They too have time and talent on their side. Scott Steele featured for a long way in last season’s Natterjacks but shift-work commitments have reduced his appearances so far this time around. He has 35 from two rounds. Pete Fry had 20 in round 2 and is definitely not out of this, counting 56 from his best three rounds and has the ability to be consistent. Conqueror of the Xmas Comp Alan Eastwood has too many family commitments to play many Natterjacks but don’t be surprised if he walks away a winner of a round in 2022. The Celtic Trio: Dave Maclardie [46pts], John Phillips [44pts] and Ged McGrath [58pts] all have the ability and the handicaps to produce an exceptional score as Ged proved in winning round 3 with a massive 24 points. Any repeat of that would make him a serious contender but can he? John Simpson produced 21 points and nearly won round 4. Another with an ascending handicap and bags of ability! Club champion Ed Robertson may only have 51 points so far from three rounds but this could all change should he turn his attention to winning this year’s edition. Fresh from his operation it was good to see John French returning to the fray and recent practice has gone well. He has a lot of ground to make up but off his handicap of 18 he could feature soon. Life on the Links is proving tough for Jon Holmes off his handicap of just 11. Yet he did post 21points in round 3 and has 51 in total. George van Boyd only has 31 from his two rounds to date but is another proven winner who we may see more of. Was it 3 or 4 years ago that Gary Turner cleaned up in comps? He was off a handicap in the 20’s back then and is now off 13.9. Yet to feature in this year’s Natterjack’s but could be a winner at any time. Neil Robertson has 52 points from the best of his rounds and is another who will play Winter Alliance. We all know how good he is but could he be a late contender? Joe Burch [32pts] and Richard Roberts [38pts] also play Winter Alliance and have only managed two rounds each so far but Richard’s includes a 21 pointer from round 3 and is another who could win at any time.


With a separate prize for the ladies it could well be that the Ladies Winner and the overall winner turns out to be the same player. We have had two outright winners from among the ladies so far and there are probably more to come. Joan Myers has commitments at other clubs but has still managed to play three times for a total of 48 points while Diane Clark has also struggled with her winter form compared to her summer exploits, posting 41 from 3. Yvonne Goodrick won round 1 with 22 points but has been away for long periods, restricting her to just one round. Will travelling plans intervene again? Chris Lloyd-Rogers won with 24 points in her single appearance but has moved to Kendal now and might not want to travel during these troubled times. Another with a useful handicap, Sue Bilgri has only appeared once herself for 17 points and if the French authorities are kind we might not see Sue Driver for a while, after posting a total of 32 from 2. So we have a definite favourite for this race too, with Helen Holmes dominating. Her 60 points from 3 rounds have her way out in front and a major threat for the overall Order of Merit.

Round 7 is January 15th & 16th

The Magic of Match-play

Antony Holmes and Iain Maclardie take us on their journey through the Titleist Match-play 2021.

Making their way through the match-play maze has always brought success for Iain Maclardie and Antony Holmes, in fact, both having fathers who play and encourage them, you could say it’s built into their DNA; so when Antony saw a competition being launched by Titleist on Howdidido early last year it was only natural that he would ring golfing partner and best mate Iain and mention it to him. Iain and AJ go back a long way, all the way to school in fact but it wasn’t until AJ started playing in his twenties that the two became golf partners and very soon found they played well together. Iain had already followed in dad Dave’s footsteps and, as we all know, playing with good players is like free lessons. “Me and dad won the Grouse Foursomes one year,” Iain tells me,” I had the long game, and he had the short game.” And it wasn’t long before AJ got to grips with the game by playing with his dad Alan. Match-play turned out to be natural to them, each winning while playing with their respective dads and things went well for Iain playing with AJ almost from the start. “Playing with your best mate is good,” Iain says, “because we have a laugh. The golf is serious though.” On one particular weekend they won the Famous Grouse Foursomes on the Saturday and The Silecroft Open on the Sunday. The foursomes must have been a magic fit, with them going on to win it four times on the trot. “I like foursomes,” Iain jokes, “You don’t lose as many balls.” Obviously, they were a match made in golfing heaven and a win at The Inshore Rescue at Dunnerholme was soon to follow.

 So, the Titleist Match-play looked right up their street; pairs playing match-play against pairs? Could have been designed for them! But would they get in? The advent of Covid meant fewer numbers being able to enter and they very soon found themselves representing Silecroft in round 1, against two blokes from Brampton, at their place. Iain would be playing off 13 and AJ 7.

“We got away really well and were five up after six, but they fought their way back and it all came down to the last where Iain had a strong par to edge them out. The most memorable thing that happened was on the 200-yard par three. One of their blokes landed on the green and the three of us were nowhere near. I was stuck behind a bunker in some thick stuff, but I was fortunate enough to hit a good chip to within three feet. Their bloke on the green let it get to him and three putted while I sank the putt, and we won the hole. That’s match play. You’ve got to keep your head together. Round two we were drawn at home against a pair from Workington. It was a typical Silecroft day with a strong breeze, which brings out the best in us.” Iain takes up the story: “On the fourth I was nowhere in the running, but Antony was through the back in two. I watched him practice methodically in his routine for the chip. The ball left the face on a true line, bounced, then rolls toward the hole before dropping in! I said, ‘Get in there, fantastic shot.’ Yes, I was relieved because he’d done it again.” “And we were reasonably comfortable winners 3 & 2.” Antony sums up.

 “Round 3 we were home again to a very good couple from Silloth. The wind was up again, and we started well, going two up and never falling behind after that. Then Iain birdied the 16th to seal the deal 3 & 2.” Covid was playing havoc and the organizers decided to go straight from Round 3 to the final, which was eventually played at Bromborough GC on the Wirral in 2021. “It was cancelled a few times,” Antony continues, “and then re-arranged for July this year, the week before the Blackpool trip. It was a scorching hot day of 29 degrees and was won by two local lads, one off + 3 and the other off 20 ‘but should have been lower’, as some folk told us. Four pairs progressed to the National Final and 43 points won it, we were joint fifth with 38 points.” A near miss then but it all served to give them a thirst for more and this year they entered again. “You meet some great blokes, play some good courses and we really are suited to match-play, so we were always going to go again.”

For round one this time around, they were drawn away at Kendal and when they met their opponents they were in for a surprise. Gary [Rambo] Billington “Does actually look like Rambo!” Antony says. “A big burly bloke and a larger-than-life character, Gary took driver out of the rough at one point and he chipped one handed! Playing partner Simeon Barsby’s handicap had only recently gone up from 3 to 5 and he hit a very, very long ball, more than 300 yards off the tee, so we were up against it a lot of the time.” But the Silecroft pair stepped on to the 18th tee one hole up and AJ would par the last for a half and the match. “So, it was back to the jungle for Rambo!” He quips.

 “Round two turned out to be a repeat of the year before as we were drawn at home against a couple of lads from Workington but not the same lads, Simon Frazer was off 15 and Philip Sorfleet off 5. It was a windy day, and they couldn’t handle it or the long grass.” AJ tells me. “But we went one down on the first and we weren’t used to that, we’d always got off to a strong start before, so this was a test of our metal. We got it back on the fourth and it was a tight game from there, but we kept our noses in front all the way and ran out winners by 2 & 1.”

The next round saw them drawn away to a pair from Furness. “The day dawned clear and sunny but with a howling wind,” AJ says. “One of those days when keeping your head together will win it for you. We were matched against a bloke I knew from the yard called Kev Turner who was playing off 11 and his mate Jan Elliott who was off 8. We halved the first; then Kev messed up his chip to the green from the rough into more rough but chipped in from there for a half. So, you never know.” But after taking the lead by winning the third it was time for another memorable moment, or rather several glorious moments from Iain Maclardie. “Iain put the match away with three birdies on the trot on 4,5 & 6. The one on the 6th – a long par four that runs near to the beach – was especially brilliant. The heavy wind was straight into our faces and after a good drive Iain hit a spectacular 4 iron to within eight feet and then sank the putt! We were always well in front after that and by the time we won on the 13th [6 & 5] we were three under par and at the finish were just +1! On their turf too!” And for the second year running they faced just one more hurdle if they were to reach the final.

Standing in their way were two older players from Lancaster, Michael Gornall playing off 5 and Dave Rimmer who was off 9. But it was to be played at Silecroft. “It was a calm beautiful day for a change and all the way round both of them raved about the views and they were astounded to learn that a course this good was maintained by volunteers. We found ourselves one down after the first, but we managed to get back to level on the fourth and from then on it was up and down the whole way. They were telling us about this new football craze they played in ‘Walking Football’ which is for seniors and how clubs like Everton were starting their own. Those lads had played it at Wembley!” Maybe engaging in conversation was part of their tactical plan? I ask. “Well, it is easy to get distracted but we kept our heads again and went on to win by 3 & 2 after a ding-dong battle.” It was off to the Regional Final yet again which would be played at Sand Moor GC near Leeds. This time around they were able to get a practice round in and traveled with Clive Mathie and Neil Robertson the week before. “It’s close to Roundhay Manor where there’s a lot of Red Kites flying and we got to see them, which is quite a sight.”

On the day there were 24 pairs participating and only the first four would go through to the National Final. “It was Stableford 4BB again and we were up against two local players who really made it a test for us. We started well with three pointers on 1,2,3 & 4 but then blobbed 5 before another three pointer on 6. But they kept pace with us the whole way until it came to the last where they had a par and we missed out altogether. So, they beat us by two points, 40 to 38. The winners had an exceptional 48 points and 4th place was 43 so we hadn’t disgraced ourselves – but those blank holes cost us dear!” “We’ve come a long way,” Iain adds, “But we must improve on the Stableford rounds.”

We fall into a discussion about match-play. I’m curious as to how a match-play partnership works during the match. There’s a Native American saying: ‘When two men row a canoe one must sit in the front.’ I mention it. “I don’t think we have a leader,” AJ tells me,” We share ideas and thoughts throughout the match.” I’m also curious about those moments when they fluff something easy, as it seems a key psychological moment in the game.” When we miss a relatively easy shot we just move on and don’t dwell on it.” Another piece of good advice comes from Iain when he tells me: “We haven’t changed the way we play, I always tee off first. Antony has a great short game, which is reflected in his handicap.” It seems one or both of any successful partnership must have a short game. Another piece of good advice comes from Iain when he tells me: “The whole match-play feels intense for me, as you’re not performing just for yourself. There’s pressure every shot and if you hit a good one it relaxes your partner. Antony thrives on pressure!” Expect pressure then. “Me and Antony gel well together too.” So, finding a partner who you get along with sounds crucial!

But what about playing individual match-play? Iain doesn’t play the Marshall Tyson at Silecroft very often, so I ask AJ how he fared in this year’s edition. “I was going well,” he tells me, “Until I met Ian Swarbrick in the semi.” “What went wrong?” I ask. “Nothing went wrong.” he replies and then takes a moment to think before answering. “Ian played out of his skin.” He finally says. “Wasn’t he getting shots?” I ask. “That too and every time he faced a long putt, he either sank it or lagged it. I was gross four over for the round and got comfortably beat, fair play to him. Sometimes you’ve got to recognize that you’ve been beaten fair and square and there was nothing more you could have done about it, so you shake hands, say ‘well played’ and head for the bar.” And perhaps that’s another thing that Iain and Antony are renowned for, they take the notion of fair play seriously. To them sportsmanship is important. It’s that and their achievements that make all of us at Silecroft proud of them.