(Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
By John Huggan
The weather was stunning. The play was both fascinating and fun. Lots of people—officially 10,094—across all age groups came to spectate over the sun-drenched Centurion Club north of London. And the Irish team of Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan emerged victorious in the second playing of Golf Sixes, beating France in the final by the score of 2-0 (two holes won versus none lost). The winning pair shared €200,000, a sum that will surely be most welcome to Moynihan. Since earning his card at the qualifying school last year, the 23-year-old has missed eight cuts on the European Tour and two on the Challenge circuit.
For those oblivious to just how all this worked, the clue is in the title. Sixteen teams, a mixture of men and women, gathered to first identify eight qualifiers from four round-robin groups. Then, on Day 2, straight knock-out using the greensomes format (both players tee-off on each hole, choose the best of the two, then straight foursomes thereafter) was used over each of the six-hole matches.
Within all of the above, too, there was much merriment, most of that involving youngsters encouraged to cheer and applaud as the players hit. And a 30-second shot-clock added to the tension on one hole in each match.
As things worked out, the Irish pair defeated the “England Women” team of Charley Hull and Georgia Hall in the quarterfinals. The South Koreans (Soomin Lee and Jeunghun Wang) were next, Moynihan’s chip-in at the first extra hole seeking victory. And, avenging their earlier defeat in the group stages, the French duo of Mike-Lorenzo Vera and Romain Wattel were last to go. For the record, the Koreans beat Australia (Sam Brazel and Wade Ormsby) in the third-place match.
All in all, Golf Sixes was enormously entertaining and fun both to play—the participants were unanimous in that respect—and to watch. Not least because the matches brought together such an eclectic mix of players. As well as the English Women, Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda combined as the “European Women” side and, perhaps most intriguingly, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn paired with Solheim Cup skipper Catriona Matthew. Happily, too, both of the all-women sides made it as far as the quarters before succumbing, evidence enough that the tricky business of tee placement worked out pretty well.
Things went even better than that for the eventual winners of course. And it was a well-earned victory. Over the 17 holes, they played on the second day, the Dunne and Moynihan, both members of the 2015 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup side at Royal Lytham, made birdie or better on 12. The slow-moving Dunne also managed to avoid any shot-clock penalties, a result that will surely come as something of a shock to many on the European Tour.
“It’s an individual game, and it’s nice to get together with a partner, especially like Gavin, who I’ve been friends with for a long time and have success like this,” Dunne said. “We just played really solid all week. Gavin was hitting some amazing iron shots and, obviously, the pivotal moment for us was him chipping in on the playoff against the South Koreans.”
Moynihan added: “We know each other’s games so well and we’re comfortable with each other. We had a game plan coming in and the course set up well for us, I think. We had fun. Honestly, it was the best fun I’ve had on the golf course since I’ve turned pro. It was a great few days.”