SPORT can be cruel
One minute Phillip Island’s Mark Ritterman was standing over a half-metre putt on the 18th green that would have won his team the 2015 Division One Golf Pennant.
But on the tricky Korumburra finishing hole, the tentative putt veered right and failed to drop. The next moment Ritterman watched in disbelief as his opponent, the Wonthaggi captain Danny Crellin, drained an impossible 50 footer on the first play-off hole to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
But that’s sport. That’s why they watch and maybe, in a dream, why we play.
Even that famous excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’, scrawled above the player’s doorway at Wimbledon: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…” doesn’t quite make sense of it.
But that was the story of a drama-filled day at the Korumburra Golf Course last Sunday where the pennant premiers for the season; Wonthaggi in Division One, Lang Lang in Division Two and Three and Meeniyan in Division Four; all had stories to tell of triumph flirting with disaster.
Match of the day
With five of the seven matches decided in the Division One final between Phillip Island and Wonthaggi, Phillip Island held a 3-2 advantage after Ray Smith and Paul Wagner had beaten their opponents Beau Vanagtmaal and Matt Johnson 3&1, and after Wonthaggi’s Julian Wintle hit the trees on the 17th to hand his match to the Island’s Matthew Thompson.
Wonthaggi had two winners in; Shane Sartori 3&2 over Henry Ritterman and Scott Gheller 5&3 over Nigel Shadforth. They also had Darren Green just finishing the 16th with a two-shot lead over Jeremy Westaway and looking the winner.
It all came down to the match between Danny Crellin and Mark Ritterman with Crellin leading by one as the players addressed their drives on the 17th.
Crellin’s drive flirted with the Cypress trees along the road but finished on the fairway while Ritterman’s drive faded left. Crellin, who had the better look at the green, played a poor shot, and left it short while Ritterman recovered superbly to hit the middle of the green, just three metres away from the hole.
Ritterman made par but two tentative putts by Crellin saw the players all square as they went to the 18th tee.
Ritterman ripped a superb drive, 260 metres-plus, straight down the middle and he plonked his second shot, with a three iron, pin-high on the left edge of the 18th green. He was in the boxseat.
Crellin’s drive was good, but not as long and he bravely hit his driver ‘off the deck’ from the fairway to get to 30 metres from the green but he putted poorly again and seemed to have handed the win to Ritterman.
Standing over a two-foot putt for birdie, Ritterman looked ready to deliver the pennant to Phillip Island when disaster struck and his careful stroke borrowed at the last second and failed to drop.
Marching across to the 19th, the par three first at Korumburra, they couldn’t have helped but notice that Darren Green was on the verge of squaring the match on the 18th.
Ritterman hit first, another superb short iron, 3½ metres from the pin, which was cut in a particularly tricky spot, exposed to the slope on the far edge of the green.
Crellin’s shot looked straight but came up short, on the green, but 15 metres or more away.
He’d need to judge the wide borrow and pace to perfection, even to get it close. But he did better than that.
Without taking much time to size it up, he helped the ball on its way with a confident stroke, rolling slowly at first and then picking up a pleasing amount of pace as it circled back towards the hole… and incredibly,
it dropped in!
A shocked and delighted Crellin fell prostrate on the green as the cheers from further up the hill, around the clubhouse, rose.
Ritterman then needed to sink his putt to take the match to the 20th, no gimme across the slope, but certainly far easier than Crellin’s monster and it looked as if he’d done just that but the ball lipped in and out to give the pennant to Wonthaggi; the former powerhouse club’s first Division One title since 2011.
‘The greatest putt’
Veteran of over 40 pennant finals with Wonthaggi, Ian ‘Slugger’ Sullivan dubbed it “the greatest putt in pennant golf history”.
He should know.
“It’s as good a putt as you’d ever hope to see anywhere,” said Sullivan after the match.
“Especially with the borrow and the length and the slope down towards the hole, it had to be perfect and it was.”
A delighted Danny Crellin revealed afterwards that he’d ‘gone to school’ on the putt earlier.
“My first shot of the day landed in exactly that position on the first green and I just lipped out then so I knew what I had to do. Doing it was another thing.”
His team mate, Darren Green, had also seen something similar before.
“He’s the best pressure player I’ve ever seen. He did the exact same thing, sank the putt on the 19th in 2011 to win us the pennant 4/3, that time against Cowes as well,” said Green, who played his part in the victory too, beating Phillip Island’s captain Jeremy Westaway 2up on the 18th.
At the presentations afterward Crellin said the most pleasing aspect of the result was that the same seven players played every match together over the course of the season.
“We only had seven blokes put up their hands to play at the start of the season and they ended up playing every match. We travelled together, we played together and enjoyed the season together and I think they showed a lot of heart to get the job done here today.”
Crellin and all the other players from the four divisions praised the condition of the course at Korumburra and thanked the crowd on hand to witness the matches.
In other games; Division Two: Lang Lang defeated Foster 4/3 (Chris Roberts def Norm Cooper 3/2, Tony Andrews lost to Neville Thompson 1up, Nick DeHey lost to Kevin Flett 3/2, Jack Ingram lost to Pat McKay 1up, Peter Sellers defeated Noel Black 5/4, Adam Haywood defeated Tony Vanin 1up and Anthony Chandler defeated Alec Morley 2up; Division Three: Lang Lang defeated Foster 5/2 (David Pearce def Trevor Jones 2up, John Ruddy def Owen Kindellan 3/1, Ray Zammit Lt Phil Schofield 4/3, James Martella def Andrew Naylor 19th, Scott Walker Lt David Hutchinson 1up, Geoff Cohen def Ray Prain 19th and Fehan Dunleavy def Shane Reid 2up; Division Four: Meeniyan defeated Leongatha 4/3 (Andrew Horwath def Tim Boler 4/2, Rod Matthews lost to Mark Boler 6/5, Peter Wilson Lt Mark Anderson 6/5, Colin Olden def Ryan Thomas 3/2, Brian Dewer def Andrew Bassett 4/3, Alan Kuhne Lt Peter Jaspers 4/2 and Phillip Johnson def Gary Peters 4/2.