THEY call it the nappy factor in golf gambling – backing players on the American and European Tours, who have recently become fathers, especially for the first time, to win their first title, or one of the big events such as a Major.
Well for Stoneham’s former pro Elliot Groves his biggest win on the Hampshire stage in 14 years proves it can apply in the amateur game too.
Groves, from Eastleigh, claimed his first Hampshire Order of Merit title by winning the Delhi Cup at a blustery Hockley GC, on Saturday.
Having shot a two-under par 69 – three better than his nearest rival – in the morning round, he closed out a one-shot win over playing partner Matthew Sandy.
He holed a four-footer for birdie on the last, after watching the Dorset first-teamer make his own four from 10 feet to post a level-par total.
Groves, who returned to the amateur ranks last year – after seven years playing on the Hampshire PGA circuit and the PGA South Region – described his second round 72 as “boring golf.”
The former Romsey GC pro rattled 10 pars in a row after dropping two shots in the first five holes after lunch.
And he confessed – having made that crucial four on the last hole to seal his victory – the highlight of his day was being greeted by his eldest daughter Zara as the trophy was presented, with seven-month-old Isla watching from her mother’s arms. Daddy then took Zara to the practice area to hit some shots with her.
A beaming Groves said: “It was the best part of the day and shows you how much the pressure of practising and caring too much about the results can hold you back in golf.
“Since I turned pro, I have also run College Sports America, helping many young golfers fix up good scholarships in the States. It has helped turn some of them into really good players – both male and female.
“There were probably 15 players in the Delhi field, who are really full-time golfers, even though they are still amateurs – and a bunch of them have been to the States after I helped them get fixed up with college places.
“So it feels great to win again. It is no slight on county golf in Hampshire, but the fact it’s no longer about playing for money, and not having time to practice like I did as a pro – as well as having two kids over the last couple of years – it meant I was just out there having a really good time.”
The essence of the nappy factor theory is players who might be guilty of being too intense – especially when the pressure of winning ramps up even more on Sundays – no longer “get in their own way.”
The moment they come off the course and spend time with their kids, they gain a bit of perspective that there are more important things in life then just golf.
While Elliot did win the Hampshire PGA Matchplay title in 2018 – ironically at Hockley – he would certainly subscribe to the nappy factor theory.
Elliot, who was a junior at the now defunct Dunwood Manor, said: “I was just defending after starting from the 11th in the first round, waiting to get to the last four holes on the back nine which were downhill and downwind.
“I took advantage of those holes with three birdies in four, and then parred out from there – the birdies on 16 and 18 were practically tap-ins. I then holed a par putt from off the green on the eighth, which felt crucial at the time, to hold the round together.”
“After lunch, I hit pretty much every green in regulation from the sixth after dropping three shots in a row from the second.”
Sandy went out in level-par after lunch, leaving Groves one ahead. But the Sherborne’s third birdie in five holes at the par-five 11th left them tied on level-par overall.
They both hit it close on the par-three 16th before missing the green to match bogey fives on the penultimate hole. But the nappy factor proved decisive on the last as Groves held his nerve for a 72 to finish as the only player under par.
Elliot, who won the Courage Trophy back in 2009, said: “I think I enjoy it more when conditions are tough and Hockley seems to suit my game. That win’s now a nice warm-up for the county championship there next month.”
Saunders has to settle for place again
LEE-on-the-Solent’s George Saunders produced some fireworks as the 2016 Delhi winner produce an eight-shot improvement in the afternoon to card a best-of-the-day 68.
His round included an eagle-two on the driveable sixth hole, and could have been lower but for two bogeys on his front nine, leaving him third on two-over.
The former England U16 cap has spent the last year at Virginia Commonwealth University, playing for the Rams, after two tough years at Tennessee.
He lost out in a play-off to Stoneham’s James Freeman a year ago, along with Hockley’s Tom Chalk. The latter has since joined Stoneham, after his first year at Texas’ University of the Incarnate Word, but could only finish in 41st place after round of 78 and 81.
The good news for county captain Lawrence Cherry, who has been on his honeymoon, was that five of the next six players home were all members of his first-team squad.
•Other scores: 4th – Darren Wright (Rowlands Castle) 73, 73,; James Knight (Sandford Springs (72, 74);
6th – Robert Wheeler (North Hants) 76, 71; Joe Buenfeld (Bramshaw) 74, 73;
8th – Luke Hodgetts (Hockley) 79, 69; Alex Talbot 77, 71, (Stoneham) 78, 70; Harrison Pake (Stoneham) 77, 71; Ryan Henley (Stoneham) 74, 74; Colin Roope (Rowlands Castle) 73, 75; Harrison Price (Hockley) 74, 74;
Handicap prize (countback) – 1st Alex Olney (Brokenhurst Manor) 76, 70 nett playing off two; 2nd Harrison Price (Hockley) 73, 73 nett playing off one.
•For the full scores at the 2023 Delhi Cup click here.