Report by Will Poole
With three successful tours under their belts in previous years, it was understandable why this year’s Alumni tourists felt a sense of close anticipation as Tour IV, “Destination Reykjavik”, approached.
The journey to Tour IV was very different for each tourist. Ollie Tunnicliffe, Will Poole and JamBoy (Tim Bates) had enjoyed some time on the fairways of England in preparation for the battle to come, in stark contrast to Will Mellor, Rob Teare and Ross Barden who had struggled to find the time to dust off their swings and polish their short games. Nick Pritchard had defied the Cern Scientists, and managed to get himself standing and swinging a club, having broken his leg in three places just 8 weeks before D-Day. As the wheels of flight 178 from Dubai to London glided onto England’s pleasant pastures, Harry Santa-Olalla felt the sense of anticipation, as he stood to defend the Bell Tower Trophy and the Monticello Shield. Reports suggest that as the plane landed he began to gently weep in the arms of an extremely caring air steward called Simon.
Every tourist had experienced different journey, but had all arrived at Stansted on time (just) for the Iceland Express.
The tourists would not see night time for another week. The land of fire, ice, and constant daylight was their home for the next week. This home consisted of an awesome penthouse apartment on the outskirts of Reykjavik… and upon arrival it was clear that this was the perfect place to base the tour for the week. On top of that, it was very well located to a major road intersection, meaning that on the way back from each round finding our home would be really easy. We’re not sure what was wrong with our driver, but that didn’t quite materialise.
Saturday arrived and the first round began. Heeding warnings of the worst storms in 4 years approaching, the tourists tee’d off early at Oddur Golf Club, dressed in thoroughly absorbent cotton clothing, leaving the majority of waterproof equipment at home. It was safer there. The tension reached fever pitch as the much anticipated Champions Shank contestant, Harry Santa, stepped onto the 1st tee, in a sharp right to left wind; the early signs of the oncoming weather front. Memories switched back to the year previously, where Tunnicliffe had sprayed one left aggressively. We knew this stroke could defeat the best, and the dangers of strong wind, and OB on the right made the pressure even more intense. What pressure? Santa steps up and melts a driver to the middle of the fairway. That’s how its done. Take note future champions. From that point on not much by way of impressive golf could be reported, save a 70ft plus putt holed by Pritchard. The conditions became more and more severe, and the golf deteriorated with it as the tourists began chasing waterfalls. It can be confidently asserted that it was the slow greens that caused the vast majority of tourists to not break 100. No other reason. At the end of a testing round of golf, a round in the high 90s was the best that the tourists could muster. Santa had begun his defence well and enjoyed a slender lead. The work had paid off for Jam Boy also, who put himself in a strong position to defend his wooden spoon. In the match play stakes Pritchard and Teare started confidently, picking up a decent point against Tuna (Tunnicliffe) and Mellor, whilst the engaging match between Poole & JamBoy vs Santa & Barden ended in a just half on the 18th green.
It wasn’t exactly easy to establish when Saturday ended and Sunday started. Following an educational trip into Reykjavik the night before, 8am had seemed to be the start of Sunday. Without any change in daylight to assist the tourists, confusion ensued, and Saturday accidently ran on until 8.30am on Sunday.
Despite the confusion, Sunday had begun and Keilir golf course was the next obstacle. The front nine cut narrow, undulating fairways through rugged and punishing lava. Slightly wayward shots could kick savagely in the wrong direction, or end up back on the fairway, such was the lottery. Those who gambled found themselves with regular snowmen on the card. Whilst the weather had improved from the previous day, conditions were still not ideal and some of the coastline holes of the back nine proved tough. Decent rounds from Pritchard and Poole saw them pick up a match play point from Barden and Jamboy, and establish themselves at the top of the Bell Tower leaderboard. Mellor, proving a very useful match play partner, dovetailed with Santa nicely to pick up a point from Tuna and Teare.
Round 3 was booked for midday but getting there involved a long drive down the south coast of Iceland and a ferry trip to Vestmann Island. A very early start it was! How exactly the tourists made that ferry remains a mystery. After a choppy ferry ride, enhanced by whale sightings, the tourists disembarked onto Vestmann Island. Round the other side of an enormous volcano crater the incredible scenery of Vestmann Island GC came into view. Crisp sunshine and clear blue skies made the round one to remember, with amazing views and an interesting test of golf. The conditions led to a considerably better standard of golf, with both matches going down the last and ending all square. JamBoy shocked the galleries with a crisp 6 over front nine… only to have a minor blow up on the back. Despite that, at net +2 JamBoy equalled the best round of the day with Poole. It has become customary that the Tour produces absolutely classic locations to enjoy a post round beer, and this year did not disappoint by any stretch. Warm evening sunshine coupled with the amazing jagged coastline back drop meant the tuborgs absolutely slipped down.
After a day relaxing in the Blue Lagoon Spa, and further educational visits around the cultural highlights of Reykjavik, the fourth round was solely focused on the Monticello Shield. Pritchard, Santa and Poole were leading and in need of a win, but there were others lurking looking for a point to launch them into contention. The course, Korpa, was a step above, in cracking condition, and even the return of a spot of rain couldn’t spoil what was a great round of golf. Jamboy, despite cementing himself as odds on front runner in the wooden spoon, became a formidable match play opponent, and with some great play from Santa also, they prevailed over Pritch and Mellor. Tuna and Poole were subjected to some imperious iron play by Barden and Teare, but untidiness on the greens allowed them to stay in the game and eventually prevail on the 17th. Heading into the last round, only Pritchard could win the Monticello Shield outright, with Poole and Santa just behind, but playing in the same pairing.
Grafarholt GC provided a fitting final course for the tour. The course was in impeccable condition and arguably the best of the five we had seen. There was lots to play for – JamBoy and Tunnicliffe in a struggle to avoid become the Wooden Spoon holder, Santa, Poole and Pritchard in the mix for the Monticello Shield, and Poole holding a paper thin lead over Pritchard in the Bell Tower Trophy. With some seriously tough white tees tucked way back, the course provided a stern test and saw all eventualities entertained for at least a few holes. A strong start from Santa and Poole saw them establish a lead in the matchplay… looking to seal a play off. But, a drop in form saw Tuna and Pritchard level at the turn, with Pritchard making up all 6 of the 8 shot deficit behind Poole with a great par followed by a tee shot on the 200 yd par 3 6th that frightened the hole and ended 6 inches away – arguably the shot of the tour. JamBoy had become accustomed to tidy starts in the two rounds previously, and at the turn looked like he could avoid defending his wooden spoon. A standard JB blow up coupled with a decent Tuna resurgence, finishing par/par/par, meant that not only had Pritchard & Tunnicliffe sealed a 3&2 matchplay victory over Poole & Santa, and the Monticello Shield for Pritchard, but also a tie in the wooden spoon standings. Despite a resurgence from Pritchard the gap proved to be the decider, with Poole edging the Bell Tower in the closing holes.
The Wooden Spoon could not be halved. This required a play off. The tourists gathered to see this grudge match decided. The nerves of Tuna and JamBoy were evident, declining the customary post match pint and breathing heavily.
Off the tee – Advantage Tuna as he bombs a huge drive to 20 yards short of the green and JamBoy leaks won left into the rough.
Contestants nervously stroll down the tee… time for last minute pep talks from Caddies.
Second Shot – JamBoy successfully hits the green in reg from a rough lie. Tuna hits. All down to the puts. Jamboy has 25-30 feet, Tuna has 10-15ft. Advantage Tuna.
DISPAAAIIIIIRRRR for JamBoy as the One Pound fish express gets aggressive on the put, missing the hole slightly and running 12 feet past…. Plenty of golf in that!!!!!
Tunnicliffe smells blood, rolls his put to 2 feet, and the missed return from JamBoy gets the engraver furiously updating the new wooden spoon with his name for the second year running.
Such an exciting end was the fitting end to a fantastic tour – one widely backed as the best so far. The tourists are enjoying the strange looks they get when people hear that they golfed in Iceland, only to explain just how amazing the place is. The location and courses were unique. Iceland was a rip roaring success. The tour rumbles on, and we look forward to next year. It has become an annual event that each tourist is proud to be part of, and an extremely fitting way to remember a very good friend. There is no doubt whatsoever that Myles would have absolutely loved Iceland, and with that as a bench mark in mind… we plan for Tour V.
Myles Robinson Bell Tower Trophy – Reykjavik 2012 – Final Standings
Bell Tower Champion : Will Poole
Wooden Spoon: JamBoy (aka Tim Bates)
Monticello Shield Matchplay Champion: Nick Pritchard