Spoils are shared in dramatic finish to Winter League event

Mike Donaldson & Graham Baines
Mike Donaldson & Graham Baines

The Rutland Water Winter League drew to a dramatic conclusion last Saturday after finishing with two players inseparable at the top of the leaderboard.

The competition sees members play up to eight times throughout a gruelling winter schedule, with the best six scores of the eight counting towards an aggregate total.

Beginning in November and finishing in March, the event had a massive influx of competitors this year with more than 70 players competing throughout the winter period.

With one week left to go, there were three members all in with a chance of lifting the coveted trophy.

Category one player and five-handicapper Mike Donaldson was a point ahead of Gretton’s Graham Baines with Andy Dennis a further two points back in third place before play.

With the pressure on, Mike began well with a front nine score of level par which amassed a solid 20 points before consolidating on the back nine with a couple of crucial up and downs.

He posted a total of 39 points - a solid score which was looking good enough to take the title outright.

Then up-stepped Graham Baines who is widely regarded as the club’s ‘nearly man’ due to a number of second-placed finishes in medals over the last year. He was adamant that this was his time and he would rid himself of the tag that has haunted him for years.

Playing off his 10 handicap, Graham was quickly into his work with a birdie two on hole four, backed up with four more solid pars on the front nine and 21 points beckoned.

The dream was still alive, but nerves kicked in on the 10th hole and a sloppy bogey halted momentum which he soon recovered with a par at the next hole.

A par at the 14th followed by three more pars on the last three holes and 19 points was salvaged on the back nine, giving him a total of 40 points on the day.

He was one point better off than Mike and the same aggregate total of 223 points over the duration of the competition. Andy Dennis consolidated third place with a total of 221 points.

At the end of play there were mixed emotions for Graham over a well deserved beer in the clubhouse.

He commented: “It’s nice to finally win an event even though I have to share it with Mike.

“Congratulations to Mike for another consistent performance and I look forward to winning something outright in the upcoming months.”