A superb day at a Joe Denly Testimonial event in the company of a number of Kent county cricket professionals at Prince’s Golf Club, Sandwich. I arrived mid-morning after driving down from Beckenham to find the course, sited directly next to the easterly facing coastline, benefiting from warm summer sunshine and a noticeably fresh breeze.

Even from the approach to the clubhouse in the car, it was clear the course was in particularly superb condition. On Tuesday, 2nd July, it is to be one of the final qualifying venues for The Open. No wonder it was in perfect nick!

I soon met highly-efficient event organiser Heidi Coleman, as she was setting up for the day in the first floor lounge, and I learnt that my partners – in addition to my namesake Andrew Ames from music industry collecting society PPL – were to be Australian bowler Grant Stewart and South African batsman Heino Kuhn.  This turned out to be a particularly entertaining line-up.

We were to tee-off at 2pm from the third tee on the Himalayas nine-hole stretch and we set off after a drink in the Clubhouse in search of our starting point.  Heino, playing off a a handicap of 14, could certainly deliver an iron off the tee!  While Grant, playing off 18, proved his potential with a fine swing and positive attitude.  Andrew, playing off 13, said he had only played once before in 2019, but immediately displayed his prowess in hitting a number of impressive tee shots.

Although we scored a collective 10 Stableford better-ball points for the first two holes – a scoring rate that would have won the trophy if we had maintained that start – we struck a rough patch for the next few holes and could only muster a total of 34 points for the first half.

We definitely picked up on the second half of our round on the nine-hole Shore stretch.  I was especially pleased to record a gross two under par from the 10th to the 15th featuring two birdies and four pars.  Our foursome was not short of firepower, but the rough was significantly high and the fairways often very narrow, which made for a significant challenge in terms of staying in play.  The greens and their approaches were immaculate and I hugely enjoyed the opportunity to both play classic links ‘bump and run shots’ and to putt on the consistent, fast surfaces.

We finished with a fairly respectable 77 points, but a long way short of the winning total of 89 points by Joe’s team.  The afternoon was completed by a very enjoyable dinner, games and prize-giving.  It was a pleasure to say hello to Robert Key, Allan Donald, Darren Stevens and several other major names of the Kent cricket world, as well as having the chance to thank Joe for a marvellous event.

My thanks to my playing partners who made the day a joy and my special thanks for the invitation to the wonderful Heidi, official organiser for Joe’s events in 2019.  Joe’s testimonial series began in March with a lunch in Maidstone and will finish at Lord’s in November.  For more information, please visit the dedicated website.