Designed by PGA captain Richard Bradbeer in 1992, the Garstang course is now a well-established and popular 18-hole course that follows the River Calder and the River Wyre on the front nine holes. The back nine has a few long par 4’s and a par 5 and some undulating greens. The course is 6,115 yards long and has a par of 68. It has open fairways and light rough. There are water and bunkers among the hazards, strategically placed to ensure the course is no easy round – par is not often beaten here.
On a bright sunny day, with a lively breeze to keep players cool, 79 golfers from all corners of the Province of West Lancashire arrived to do battle with the course, their opponents and in some cases, themselves! Teeing off first was last year’s champion Tony Fletcher. He was accompanied by Jim Ainsworth, last year’s winner of the Owen Smith trophy and Ian Lynch made up the opening three-ball. They all played confidently down the fairway and putted out finely on a challenging two-tier green. This set the pace for others to follow.
Some fine shots were witnessed from the first tee, mainly played with drivers. The ultimate example of self-confidence however was displayed by Neil Williams from Chorley Group who made creditable progress down the fairway with a five iron. He was later to come second in the longest drive category. The longest drive was won by Giles Berkley from North Fylde, who was another player to impress off the first tee and leave himself with an easy shot to the green.
Top marks in the bragging rights most certainly went to Geoff Whittle of Wigan Group, who scored an eagle on the par four ninth hole. After a slightly wayward drive off the tee Geoff found his ball in some rough about 110 yards from the green. Taking a sand wedge, he went for the pin and for once it went straight in. “It wasn’t luck,” he said, “I always aim at the pin!” Another player scoring a two was Andrew Hall with a birdie putt on the par three 16th.
To use horseracing terms, the going was heavy. Torrential rain during the week had left pools of standing water on several fairways and in many bunkers. The greens however were in great condition and the green keepers received several compliments for their work.
The 14th is a picturesque hole with the River Wyre running down the left and John Rennie’s Lancaster Canal aqueduct, with its deep Doric cornices, behind the green. Many a ball was lost in the river during the day – to the chagrin of the unfortunate players. Straying from the fairway on this hole isn’t a good game plan as there is a deep copse on the right of the fairway. The correspondent witnessed a remarkable shot by a local member who landed behind this copse, took a seven iron out of the bag and hit the ball back onto the fairway without disturbing the smallest slither of bark. Such a shame that he fluffed his next shot into a bunker!
With many tales of glory and woe, good luck and outrageous fortune, the bar and veranda gradually thronged with battle weary players, eager to share their experiences with their fellows. In the background, event organiser Leon Gaskell was busily checking scores while keeping a wary eye on catering issues for the dinner to follow. After enjoying a pint or two and an invigorating shower, players and guests entered a finely presented dining room to enjoy a sumptuous four course meal.
Presiding over this fine evening was Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Winder, who is the Chairman of the West Lancashire Masonic Golfing Society. Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, who is President of the Society, was pleased to be the guest of honour for the evening. In a short address, David told of the 77-year history of the Society, which was formed to foster friendships throughout the Province while raising charitable monies.
To this end the Society is already a Grand Patron of the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival. A further sum of over £500 was raised by the raffle from this event, the majority of which is again likely to be donated to the Festival. David went on to thank those who had organised the day’s proceedings, including secretary Leon Gaskell, treasurer and master of ceremonies Stephen Gregory and adjudicator David Ball who has been presiding over the score cards for 27 years. Before that he spent several years as the official starter at the competition.
After dinner, the eagerly awaited announcement of the victors was made, with the following players receiving recognition. The Challenge Trophy for the highest score of the day went to Gareth Williams of the Garston Group, with a score of 37 points. The second prize in this category went to Mark Mellor, also from Garston with 36 points. The Arthur Entwistle Trophy for the best score from a player with a 0 to 14 handicap was claimed by Ron Gorton from the Eccles Group with 34 points. The Owen Smith Trophy for players in with a handicap of 15 to 28 went to Mike Hatton from Preston Group with 35 points. The Hamer Trophy for players in excess of 60 years of age went to Graham Oglesby of Blackpool Group with 34 points. The prize to players older than 70 years went to Peter Schofield of Furness and South Lakes Group with 33 points. The Group Trophy with 104 points went to the Garston Group, whilst second in this category was Blackpool Group with 101.
As the sun set on another enjoyable event, farewells to old friends and new were warm. Visits to local golf courses and invites to lodge meetings during the coming Masonic season were arranged. At the end of a very busy day Leon Gaskell sat in the bar with a pint and said, “Phew! There’s another fine mess I’ve got myself out of.” Until next year, that is, when the competition will be held at Davyhulme Park Golf Club on Thursday 2 August 2018.