Essex hang on for victory at County Finals
Essex are England’s champion county for the first time in 33 years. They won the title by a tiny margin on countback at the end of a tense but exciting finale to women's County Finals at East Devon Golf Club.
County captain Amanda Colegate-Herbert said: “What a great team, I can’t say how wonderful they are – but they do like to make things nerve wracking!
Their victory marked a triumphant return to County Finals, 23 years after their last appearance and 33 years after that last win. It came on a day which began with many possible outcomes and which had spectators wishing for calculators as they totted up games won and lost.
Essex (Image © Leaderboard Photography) were in the driving seat at the start of play. They were tournament leaders with 3½ points from four matches and a win or a halved match against today’s opponents, Lancashire, would mean victory. But a loss would force a countback – and if Gloucestershire beat their opponents, Surrey, they would also be involved in the reckoning.
Lancashire came out all guns blazing and won all three morning foursomes to put the pressure on. But Essex rallied in the singles and although they were beaten on the day, the margin of 5½-3½ was just in their favour. Both teams had 3½ points from the week’s five matches and when it came to the countback of game points, including halved games, Essex had amassed 26½, while Lancashire had 26.
Amanda paid particular tribute to the half point won this afternoon by Ashleigh Greenham, who birdied the last hole to draw level in her match. “Everyone contributed and there were lot outstanding points during the week, but that was a great result under pressure,” she said.
Among the spectators watching the Essex victory were two players who were members of the team which won the 1979 title: Pat Garner and Philippa Deman.
Lancashire finished the week as runners-up and county captain Val Moran said: “While the team are disappointed we are very proud of their performance and we’ve been delighted by the play of some of the younger members who we have brought into the team. It’s been a wonderful week.
“It was all very close and very exciting and that’s the virtue of the points system – but it’s very nerve wracking!”
The Essex/Lancashire match was played first and there were no celebrations immediately after it finished. Instead the attention turned to Gloucestershire’s progress in their match and the question of whether they would join the countback
They started the day well, with two wins in the foursomes, but their challenge fizzled out in the singles. Surrey dominated the afternoon, winning five of the six games to win the match 6-3. The result left Gloucestershire with 2½ points from the week’s matches and out of the tie for the top.
In the day’s other match Lincolnshire – the 2011 champions – beat Buckinghamshire 9-0. Captain Cindy Ireland commented: “It was a great win to end the week. We’ll go home feeling buoyed up and that we’ve done Lincolnshire proud.”
1 Essex (East region) 3½ points, 26½ games
2 Lancashire (North) 3½ points, 26 games
3 Lincolnshire (Midlands North) 3 points
4 Surrey (South) 2½ points, 25 games
5 Gloucestershire (South West) 2½ points, 23½ games
6 Buckinghamshire (Midlands South) 0 points
Lancashire 5½ Essex 3½
Catherine Roberts & Gemma Batty beat Gabriella Cowley & Paige Kemp 2/1
Elizabeth Stebbings & Bethany Garton beat Charlotte Thompson & Daisy Dyer 2/1
Eloise Healey & Sophie Lamb beat Ashleigh Greenham & Sophie Madden 2/1
Roberts lost to Dyer 3/2
Garton halved with Greenham
Stebbings beat Madden 5/4
Batty lost to Thompson 1 down
Healey lost to Cowley 2/1
Lamb beat Kelly Martin 2/1
Buckinghamshire 0 Lincolnshire 9
Carole Weir & Gillian Kinnear lost to Emilee Taylor & Sophie Beardsall 9/7
Clara Leathers & Alice Koslowski lost to Jess Wilcox & Emily Slater 3/2
Luan Skeates & Denise Goodacre lost to Helen Hewlett & Emma Tipping 5/4
Zoe Fitz-Costa lost to Taylor 5/4
Weir lost to Beardsall 8/7
Goodacre lost to Slater 6/5
Kinnear lost to Tipping 4/3
Julia Gallagher lost to Megan Illingworth 7/6
Skeates lost to Lucy Atter 2/1
Gloucestershire 3 Surrey 6
Lucy Padley & Jemima Gregson lost to Lisa McGowan & Nicola Taylor 4/3
Shelby Smart & Bethan Popel beat Tana Churchill & Annabel Dimmock 5/4
Jo Hodge & Hannah Barwood beat Louisa Tarn & Katie Fewster 4/2
Smart lost to Inci Mehmet 4/3
Popel lost to Dimmock 3/2
Padley beat Sammy Fuller 5/3
Gregson lost to Taylor 4/3
Barwood lost to Tarn 1 down
Hodge lost to McGowan 1 down