The seventh renewal of the William Wates Memorial tournament was a classic. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Bi-annual Ryder Cup another full house of 70+ golfers set out to capitalise on the long months of training since their 2003 efforts. Some new faces were very welcome, although they attracted some sidelong glances form the “win-at-all-costs” brigade. Much as Ed. Would love to, names cannot be divulged.

As it so often seems to be for William’s tournament, it was a perfect autumn day. The sun shone and hopes soared. The whiff of Brighton wafted off the Dorset connection. The William Wates has become an annual pilgrimage to the civilised south-east for Adam, Giles, Henry et al. They burn up the A303 (the English equivalent of Route 66) and raise hell on the Sussex Riviera on tournament eve. At least they made it on time, unlike Monty whose explanation of a flat tyre was as lame as his breath was toxic.

The shotgun start was unusual this year in that no shotgun was heard (because I am told no shotgun was fired). Nerveless competitors that we all are, we set off in random fashion anyway. Regrettably many of us maintained the random theme rather longer than was necessary or productive. I hope I am not going too far in saying that as many groups concentrate on not coming last as genuinely aspire to challenge the perennial protagonists. In this case the bumper Radleiain entry (11 players in all) had a collective swagger that suggested they intended to hold onto their 2003 crown.

Hope springs eternal, at least until the fifth or sixth holes. Those four-balls with mathematically minded representatives have the advantage of a team-mate feverishly calculating how they are doing against the assumed winning total. “We now need 9 points a hole folks” was a reality for my team as early as the turn. Easy going encouragement for struggling team mates changed to urgent urging as the prospect of the long walk to collect the wooden spoon loomed large in frantic imaginations.

Once the cleansing purgatory of the golf was complete we all retreated to the comfort of the club house and tall tales that invariably belied the score cards submitted for careful scrutiny. As we sat down to lunch Tim said a few words about the Trusts activities and Deborah from Oval House explained how the Trust had made a difference to her organisation. Monty was MC for the prize giving, which considering he was MC went without mis-hap. Although come to think of it he did accuse the winners of creative accounting…

Both the first and second teams amassed an unlikely 94 points, with the Radleains winning handsomely (their word) on a count back. Rick Wates claims they won because he was raised to believe that family should always hold back. In third was an all female quartet that has already attracted significant ante-post support for the 2005 renewal. The performance of their “ringer” Sarah Wates richly illustrated where the golfing laurels really lie in the Henfold House stable

Claire and xyz made a special appearance too. Claire travelled with William in South America and it means a lot to us all that she has stayed in touch and introduced us to her (growing) family.

The podium for 2004 was as follows:

1st Rory Watson, Chris Lewis, Hugo Plowman and Rodney Gilmour
2nd Rick Wates, David Kennedy, Tommy Shillington and Mike Prideaux
3rd Sarah Wates (well done Mum – that showed Dad), Lawrie Wates, Nicky Masters and Colleen McNutt

Rear gunners and recipients of the finest Milletts compasses were: Fiona Pullar, Annie Hughes, Claire Howell and Fleur Thomas.

Nearest the pin: Chris Lewis
Longest Drive: Tommy Shillington

From the family’s point of view the day was a great success. The format seems to have settled down well. It is fabulous to fill 72 places so readily, and particularly good that so many come back year after year. The atmosphere is always a highlight. Everyone has fun and that is the best possible way for us to remember William. We look forward to next year with enthusiasm. Thanks to all who participated in what has become a highlight of the Wates family year. Now, I’m off to the driving range…