Golf proved the winner of the inaugural Icons of Rugby golf tournament last weekend as the Southern Hemisphere staged a dramatic comeback during the afternoon singles to win 18.5 – 17.5 against a star-studded Northern Hemisphere side at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club in Denham.
Club Ambassador and former European Tour star John O’Leary declared that the event would bring more rugby players into the game as he welcomed non-playing captains Sam Torrance and Michael Campbell to the home of the Ladies’ European Tour for a two-day match play contest.
Some of the biggest names ever to play the game of rugby competed in their second favourite sport over nine holes in various formats, ending with 12 singles matches on Sunday afternoon to decide the winning team.
Campbell got the perfect response from his players as they trailed by two points heading into the singles. His team claimed 7.5 points from a possible 12, as George Gregan, Christian Cullen, Fourie Du Preez and Grant Fox put blue on the board early, winning the first four games to turn the tide in South’s favour.
Welshman Tom Shanklin gave Sam Torrance and Team North a lifeline by beating Australian Andrew Mehrtens in game five (3&2), but it was short lived as Matt Burke beat Jeremy Guscott (3&2), John Smith defeated Martyn Williams (2up) and Victor Matfield took down Stuart Hogg (3&1) put Team South within touching distance of the trophy.
Sir Gareth Edwards claimed his first win for the Northern Hemisphere with victory over Sean Fitzpatrick (3&2), before South Africa’s record try scorer Bryan Habana recorded the vital half-a-point needed for Team South to start celebrating victory.
“I guess the Northern Hemisphere boys are used to the feeling of losing against the Southern boys,” said a light-hearted Campbell. “As my first time being a captain it’s been great to make so many friends on both teams. Maybe the North boys won in the bar, but I’m happy to be holding the trophy,” he added.
Sam Torrance was generous in defeat. “Hats off to Michael and his team. They played incredible golf on Sunday and every bit of this event has been fantastic, apart from the losing part!”
Both teams won three matches each during the morning Greensomes to be 13-11 (to Team North) going into the afternoon singles. Mike Tindall and Mike Catt made it four wins from four with a 2&1 victory over Du Preez and Smit. Brian O’Driscoll and Jeremy Guscott (4&3 over Mehrtens & Habana) and Keith Wood and Sir Clive Woodward (1up over Burke & Fitzpatrick) were the other victors for the Northern Hemisphere.
Vital wins for Gregan and Grant Fox (2up over Hogg and Shanklin), Cullen and Matfield (2&1 over Luke Fitzpatrick and Jonathan Davies) and Jake White and Zinzan Brooke (3&1 over Williams and Edwards) provided the Southern Hemisphere with much needed momentum going into the all-important singles.
Among the golfing brands associated with the event were clothing supplier Galvin Green, live scorers VPAR and simulator/launch monitor experts Foresight Sports.
“The first Icons of Rugby event has been a tremendous success and the golf has been superb, thanks to the players making it such a great spectacle,” said Thomas Brookes, founder of the ICONS-Series. “The planning starts now for the Icons of Football next year,” he added.
The Icons of Football will return in 2019, in Spain in June, followed by the first Icons of Cricket next July back at The Buckinghamshire. The Icons of Rugby will return in October 2019 with a Rugby World Cup Special held in Japan.
All scores from the tournament can be found at https://bit.ly/2LX45lb
For further information about the event, visit: www.icons-series.com