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THE OFFLEY & STOPSLEY MASTERS 2005 - Stockwood Park, 27 Oct 2005

The inaugural Offley & Stopsley Masters was settled by the narrowest of margins as Richie Barker edged to victory over Colin Keeley by a single shot.

Barker came home with a net score of 74 to leave Keeley, the leader in the clubhouse for most of the day, one shot adrift of glory after returning a 75. Martin Bigmore took the final place on the podium after carding a 78.

The eagerly awaited event took place on a crisp autumnal day with a dozen of Offley’s finest cricketing legends queuing up to try their luck around Stockwood Park’s rolling fairways.

Former county star Mark Tattersall launched the tournament in some style. Resplendent in a bright pink shirt, Tattersall set the tone for proceedings by launching his opening tee shot somewhere in the direction of the old Vauxhall site. Tattersall, Bigmore, Keeley and dark horse Darren Lunney headed out first and it soon became apparent that Tattersall would have his hands full if he was to make his class tell against Bigmore and Keeley who were each armed with 20 shots.Tattersall showed his ability by grabbing a birdie at the second but proceeded to putt like a spastic for much of the round to allow Keeley and Bigmore to move ahead. Bigmore illustrated the virtues of a solid game while Keeley overcame the ignominy of a pair of nines to post the clubhouse lead with a round of 95, net 75.

The second group enjoyed slightly less good fortune. Wayne Cutts was joined by a trio of centurions in Steve Bexfield, Balmer Bains and Chris Austin. Austin, resolute in defense as ever, had little trouble in generating less power with a golf club than with a cricket bat and on a couple of occasions failed to clear the ladies’ tee. As expected Bains was never a factor, his ample size and lack of talent proving to be far greater handicaps than the 30 shots he received. Bexfield showed signs of mounting a challenge on the outward nine although a quadruple bogey at the fifth harmed his chances and by the closing stages of the round he was hurtling backwards in a hurry, requiring 23 shots on the final three holes. Cutts promised great things on the way out after burning up the course in just 40 shots, including a birdie at the tricky eighth. However, a lack of fitness proved costly down the stretch and after bogeying the 14th, Cutts drifted out of contention by dropping eight shots over the final four holes.

The final group saw Barker matched with Jon Cerasale and a pair of escapees from a centre for the cerebrally challenged. Chris Latino and Matty Freeman demonstrated some fine skills as they routinely hit the ball at right angles, topped it a good three yards down the fairway and excelled in unfurling a fine array of air shots which more often than not sent great chunks of earth flying about the place. At one stage Latino seemed to be trying to dig himself a hole in which to escape his embarrassment. Yet despite his frenzied hacking with his three iron he was unable to find cover.
Cerasale, one of the early favourites, endured a shocking time of things, apparently being dragged down to the level of his playing partners by a brand new driver that invariably deposited the ball on the wrong fairway. A round that hardly began promisingly with a seven at the first ended in a flurry of lost balls and the ignominy of trailing in behind Bains.

It was left to Barker to provide the challenge to Keeley. After roaring out in 39, he survived iffy tee shots on 14 and 16 and a frankly incompetent adventure on 17 to reach the last tee knowing that a six would carry the day. A solid drive was followed it up by a hack into the trees and a cunning recovery shot deflected off another rogue branch to leave the title in the balance. However, a solid chip saved the day and he made the most of his two putts to hole out to complete a round of 82 and claim the trophy to leave Keeley lamenting what might have been.

Who knows, had Keeley sported the natty Pringle jumper that he wore in the evening it might have made him feel a bit more like a golfer and helped him shave a couple of priceless shots off his round to earn him victory. We shall never know! Tattersall had to content himself with fourth spot despite shooting the lowest score of the day (80) and although it represented a solid effort it didn’t entirely quieten the sceptics who mused that there must have been a fine crowd of cripples on display when the county selectors came calling all those years ago. Cutts edged home ahead of Bexfield while Bains secured seventh spot to the despair of Cerasale and the amusement of everyone else, Austin and Lunney rounded out the top 10.

As for the dynamic duo of Freeman and Latino – probably the most pathetic double act seen on a golf course since the game was invented – they finally limped home after taking a combined 344 shots. Had divots, air shots and waving at planes with their clubs been added to the equation the final total may have exceeded 400. Each. As it was Latino’s 175 was good enough to secure him 11th place thanks to his handicap of 30 while Freeman carded a net 147 to cement his hold on last place, a fitting end to a splendid day that saw an arse finish bottom.

Position Player Shots Played Handicap Final Score
2 COLIN KEELEY 95 20 75
5 WAYNE CUTTS 88 6 82
6 STEVE BEXFIELD 103 16 87
7 BALMER BAINS 125 20 95
8 JON CERASALE 105 7 98
9 CHRIS AUSTIN 120 20 100
10 DARREN LUNNEY 133 30 103
11 CHRIS LATINO 175 30 145
12 MATTHEW FREEMAN 169 20 147

Content contributed by Richie Barker