4 In A Row For Sutherland
The 6th Christmas Cup has been played and won. And what a result it was.
Aaron Sutherland won his fourth title in a row in what can only be described as a dominant display. With an interrupted preparation due to work commitments and other players coming into the tournament in good form, the pressure was on the three time champion.
On an overcast morning with rain threatening, you could feel the nerves in the air. It was fairly quiet early as players began to warm up. A few testing verbal jabs were thrown before tee off to see who was going to crack under pressure, yet everyone seemed calm.
With 8 players, the first task was to determine the groupings. I was placed in the lead group with Daniel Spokes (third 2011), Anthony Bongiorno (2008 Champion) and my brother-in-law, Robert Byrne (who clearly hates golf). Spokes came all the way from Sydney especially for the tournament and finished 3rd in his only appearance in 2011. He pretends to fly down from Sydney to visit his family just so he can play the Christmas Cup. Great commitment Krang.
The only rule when it comes to sledging is that it can’t happen during the backswing. Tom Harriott, who is renowned for trying to put his opponents off began straight away. It was apparent that to win would take some real concentration.
As my group teed off it was clear that former champion, Bongiorno was not himself. He came into the tournament second favourite as his warm-up rounds showed he was back to his best. But the first hole saw him hit the ball well long and even though he recovered to par the hole it was evident that something was wrong.
Clearly it couldn’t be nerves as he has been there and done that before. It was later revealed that less than 48 hours ago he decided to sleep on one of Geelong’s main footpaths. Not being able to hold down his dinner he asked the taxi driver to pull over and thought that this hard concrete would be good enough for a 90 minute power nap.
I’m not sure if it was the 6 beers, bottle of Black Sambuca or the mugs of Canadian Club that got the better of him, but it is fair to say that he didn’t plan his preparation well this year. He said he was rattled when he woke at 3.30am to find himself on the footpath and it was evident he had not recovered. Having slept in the same room as Bongiorno I am confident that his snoring and strange body movements would have scared off any would be attackers.
With the teeing ground for each hole so close to the previous green it gave my group a great opportunity to see how the second group was traveling. The second group consisted of reigning champion Sutherland, master (and entertaining) sledger Harriott, golf teacher Jamie McIntyre and once a year player Daniel Juchima.
Right from the first hole Sutherland showed he was here to play and within the first 6 holes he almost had two hands on the trophy. He was 4-under par after 6 holes and with his game so solid he was going to take some chasing down.
When he missed his first green, other players thought there may be an opportunity but Sutherland closed that door quickly by chipping in for birdie.
He was up by 4 strokes but the problem was that it was so early. There will always be a time where the others will get a run on so it was intriguing to see if anyone could make a run. In the warm-up games, Sutherland had shown signs of weakness with a shank and slice. Only time would tell if those would arise again.
In the lead group we were slipping away. Not enough birdies and too many bogies saw us finish the first round way off pace. I was 8-over, while Spokes and Bongiorno were both 6-over. As we watched the second group finish the 18th hole Sutherland was in the lead on an even 54 while McIntyre was 3 adrift.
In the second round the groupings change and the top 4 play together which was Sutherland, McIntyre, Spokes and Bongiorno. The remaining 4 would hit off first and let the top 4 battle it out in the second round.
But hang on…
There was only three in the first group. It appeared we had lost a member for the second round. Byrne had decided to disrespect the Christmas cup and its founding members and told us that he had too much on to play another 18 holes. Other than the founding members, a place in the tournament is by invitation only and to throw that away will likely see a 1 year ban with some members calling for a second year as punishment. We’ll let the dust settle and see what punishment is dealt.
But the main focus was on the second round and if anyone could catch the leader.
Being in the other group, and more than likely out of the contest I just wanted to put together a nice round and have a great time with friends. Playing with Harriott is always a laugh yet he will always cause me to hit at least 1 bad shot with his tirade of sledges. And Juchima is an old friend who is one of my favourites to catch up and spend time with. In fact some of Juchima’s tee shots reminded me of John Howard’s bowling performance a few years back which only made it a quarter of the way up the pitch.
He has committed to a bigger campaign for 2013 where he will get in the gym so he can make the 50m distance more easily. His resolve is great to see and will only make the Christmas Cup better.
The person who has the highest score on the first hole will become the scorer for the rest of the round and there was an epic (and entertaining) battle between Juchima and Harriott with Juchima the eventual scorer.
As we called out for updates on the other group, it became obvious that nobody was going to catch Sutherland. I put together a round of 1-over par but the damage had already been done. Sutherland lead by 6 with 4 to play and being the pro that he is, he was never going to let that slip.
eight, seven of us all hit off together on the final hole. We had all conceded defeat so celebrated with an amazing Christmas Cup Champion. Finishing with a 4-over 112 after 36 holes for his fourth title in a row was an amazing display and although we are disappointed in being defeated were all in awe of the game he played. He lead from the start and was never headed. After leading by 4 strokes early, McIntyre was able to get within 1 but he just held his nerve to take out another title.
Once McIntyre couldn’t win he seemed to be doing everything in his power not to finish second. He has been the bridesmaid too many times for his liking and this year it was a title he didn’t want.
As for me, the 62 hours of chipping practice in the back yard, 43 hours of putting practice and constant meditation to get my mental game right just didn’t pay off this year. I will look to double these hours and am even thinking of going part time at work in order to win this magnificent trophy next year.
Here are the results for the Top 3 in the 2012 Christmas Cup (par is 108 for 36 holes)
1. Aaron Sutherland 112
2. John Mitchell 117
3. Daniel Spokes 118
Filed under: Stuff From John
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