Reputations count for nothing. Yesterday morning, in the fourth round of the 55th Foursomes, Richard Boxall and Derrick Cooper, defending champions, were sent packing by a couple of teenagers. But then this championship, played by young and old, amateur and professional, male and female, prize rooster and feather duster, is a timely reminder that golf is perhaps the most humbling of sports.
Last Sunday the Australian Wayne Riley was being feted as the Portuguese Open champion in Lisbon, confirmation that he is now a serious contender following his victory in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie last summer. Riley, who won pounds 54,000 in Portugal, paid a modest entry fee to play in the Sunningdale Foursomes and yesterday he too shook hands with humility.
Riley, who has a house in Camberley, Surrey, partnered Gary Smith, the professional at Camberley Heath. Smith coaches Riley and Boxall so yesterday was not exactly the most memorable day of his career. Sean Whiffin, a professional from Enfield, and his amateur partner, Jeremy Jones, were four up after 12 holes before Riley and Smith, in tandem with pendulum putters, restored the balance.
The match went to extra holes and at the 20th Riley's 10-foot putt for victory bobbled alarmingly and kicked left. The end came at the 21st, the short par-four third, where Smith left his pitch shot woefully short and Jones chipped to within four feet of the flag, enabling his partner to win the hole and the match with a birdie three. Alas Smith and Riley.
Boxall and Cooper, seasoned campaigners on the European Tour, were given short shrift by a couple of amateurs not yet old enough to understand the coincidence of nerves with a four-foot putt. Luke Donald, 18, from Beaconsfield, and Michael O'Connor, 19, from Stoke Poges, were in receipt of two strokes from Boxall and Cooper but it was a superfluous advantage.
Donald and O'Connor won four of the first five holes and Boxall and Cooper were put out to grass at the 14th. The teenagers finished in style, Donald holing a 10-foot putt for an eagle three to secure a handsome 5 and 4 win. Donald and O'Connor took an even shorter cut, putting out Kenilworth's Warren Bladon and Gareth Jenkins 7 and 5 in the quarter-finals.
This morning Donald and O'Connor meet Whiffin and Jones in the semi-finals. In the other semi, the Scottish pairing of tour professionals Gillian Stewart and Julie Forbes play John Morgan and Mark Landrum. Stewart, a beaten finalist in 1987, has the assistance here this week of Ian Wright, the former caddie to Seve Ballesteros.
Stewart and Forbes were two down after two against Richard Hurst and Trevor Paterson and were one down playing the 16th. They won the hole with the benefit of a shot off the handicap and won the 18th and the match with a five to a six after their opponents had been bunkered. Humble pie was also on the supper menu.
Scores, Sporting Digest, page 31