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Fairway to heaven: The Accountants' Golf Challenge 2008

5th Sep 2008
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The wood covers were off and the waterproofs were on in Wiltshire this week as finance and accounting professionals from around the country descended on the famous Manor House course for the Accountants' Golf Challenge.

The idyllic Wiltshire countryside may seem an unlikely setting for a heated golf skirmish, but 16 teams of and Finance Week members arrived primed and ready for the battle to be crowned the golf kings of accountancy.

In the bunker

The award-winning course, contending to become a championship venue, has a reputation for being unforgiving, with tight fairways cutting through dense forest. "If you can't play dead straight, you're going to be in real trouble," warned the grounds keeper. And many players experienced enough of the numerous branches, bushes and bunkers to glimpse the truth in his words.

If the Sift Media team's experience was anything to go by, finishing 15th out of 16, there were some good points and some bad points. A nice straight drive followed by an approach right into a bunker seemed to be the general script; with the resident photographer arriving on cue to ensure the embarrassment was documented.

Intermittent showers couldn't dampen the enthusiasm. For some the 18 challenging holes were over too quickly, while for others the blistering pace of the competition may have proved too hot. However, the winning team showed that throwing four strangers together in the right circumstances can produce interesting results.

winning team

"It was great. The camaraderie was good, we had four great guys who got on really well together," said Graham Briggs of Aims Accountants. "We all played more or less to our handicaps, which was pretty much why we won."

His winning team mates were Alexander Guberman, John Short and Owen Temple, each winning an iPod and a bottle of champagne. "I've played the course once before and everything about it is good," continued Briggs. "The greens are good, the shape is good. I'm not just saying that to please you, it's a superb course."

Golf gone digital

State of the art digital scoring was provided by Blackberry and e-Golf Score, allowing players to update a central leader board using the slick new Blackberry Bold handsets, checking their position relative to the other competitors at any time.

When we caught up with him the next day, Jonathan Shellard, MD of Orange and Gold Accountancy, whose team finished a close second, was full of praise for the hi-tech scoring facilities. "I was just emailing someone who's organising a golf day at the end of the month to tell them how good the online scoring system was," he said.

"Given that there were a lot of people who didn't know each other at the beginning of the day; it gave everyone a bit more involvement because you could see how all the other players were doing."

"That was the whole reason for going really," said one anonymous sharp shooter. "I wanted to meet some other people in the profession and it was really helpful for that."

The longest drive competition, the measure of any respectable golfer, was widely expected to be the most competitive aspect of the day, only to be marked within the first 30 minutes of play after a staggering drive by Andrew Johnson of Proventec Plc, estimated around 330-40 yards. A modest Johnson walked away with a coveted Vijay Singh signed driver for his efforts.

Beat the pro

City Bunker, the Canary Warf entertainment venue, provided an extra competitive element by placing one of their professional players (pictured) on the 120 yard, steep downhill hole 17. Players who could get their tee shot closer to the hole than the pro had the chance to win City Bunker membership and some personal golf tuition.

Pete the pro

Madhurika Walsh, chief accountant at playboy TV UK, found the City Bunker professional's advice had an immediate impact on her game. "He was brilliant," she said. "What a guy. I wanted to take him home, to improve my game."

Also on Walsh's team was Chris Howitt, a management accountant at the Ministry of Defence, who hit a cracker on the 17th to beat the pro. "I was just inside his shot," he said. "He was gutted."

But he admitted sweating for a couple of seconds as a hole in one looked likely. "According to tradition I would've had to buy everyone in the competition a drink," he added. "I've never managed a hole in one before; it would have cost me a lot of money."

The top player prize was won by Jamie Skelding from Prime Accountants, who won a brand new Blackberry Bold and a luxury night for two at the Manor House Hotel. A man of few words, Skelding said he was delighted. "I had a good game and thoroughly enjoyed the day," he added.

Back at the 19th, the event was well rounded off with a first-class meal and presentation. Nursing tired muscles, but contented with his team's victory, Graham Briggs summed the day up. "It's been a superb day," he said. "There was no wondering what to do here as often happens with some golf days. It all went like clockwork."

Madhurika Walsh, also complaining of sore muscles in places she hadn't even known existed, went further. "I couldn't have asked for a better day out of the office," she said. "I'll definitely be coming next year, and bringing some colleagues with me as well."


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