The Season Really Begins

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Before the days of desert swings the top players in Britain would ease themselves into the rigors of the year with a jolly jaunt to Sunningdale for the annual Foursomes tournament, a unique event pairing amateurs, professionals, women and men and all combinations in-between in a foursomes match-play format over the esteemed layouts at Sunningdale Golf Club.
 
This year marked the events 75th anniversary; although, only the 67th playing. Through the years some big name players have made their mark ' Open champions such as Alf Padgham and Max Faulkner have graced the winners list; in the modern era, Luke Donald and Ross Fisher have taken the title.
 
The combination of players is what makes this event so special. Any pair with a low enough handicap ' scratch is a good marker ' and a decent golfing resume can enter the tournament. Male professionals play off a plus-1 handicap; male amateurs off scratch; female professionals off two; and female amateurs off four. So a pair of male pros playing two lady amateurs have their work cut-out ' before they even decided on whos taking the odd holes and getting that first drive away, they are giving the females 10 shots.
 
The tournament takes place over four days with both courses used in the early rounds and the Old hosting the latter stages, which includes a simple 18-hole final. This seasons event was played last week, with an eclectic 128 teams. Kirsty Taylor and Joanne Morley teamed-up from the LET as did Rebecca Hudson and Kirsty Fisher. Bernard Gallacher played with Sunningdale head pro Keith Maxwell. The professionals from Prestwick and Turnberry were a team.
 
But the most famous name on the draw was a certain Tim Henman, of tennis fame, playing with partner Terry Crawley, a English businessman. Unlike his runs at Wimbledon, where Henman would tease the British faithful with brilliant runs into the last eight or so, at the Sunningdale Foursomes he and Crawley were beaten in the first round.
 
The eventual winners of the years traditional opener were the home amateur pair of John Stansbury and Stiggy Hodgson, who beat Tom Shadbolt and Mark Laskey by the score of 4 and 3 in the final. Hodgson, 18, is a fine young player who collected a rich loot of junior titles last season, including the English Boys Championship and McEvoy Trophy. Stiggy, whos birth name is Eamonn, also managed to secure back-to-back Daily Telegraph Junior Championship Titles, winning the 2008 edition in Abu Dhabi and 2007 at Dubai Creek Golf Club. Hodgson will be among the top contenders for a Walker Cup spot later this year.
 
Elsewhere in European golf last week, Sam Torrance claimed his 11th European Senior Tour title with a victory at the DGM Barbados Open at Royal Westmoreland. Torrance moved atop of the European Senior Tour Order of Merit.
 
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