Wiltshire keep County crown by narrowest of margins
Wiltshire successfully defended the English Men’s County Championship when they tied with Lancashire on a dramatic final day at Beau Desert in Staffordshire.
Both counties finished with the same match points but Wiltshire took the title again on games won by the narrowest of margins, 18 to 17. (image © Tom Ward)
In the third place match, Suffolk overcame Worcestershire 6-3 to leave the Midland champions with the wooden spoon.
After the day’s format had been switched with the singles being played in the morning because of an adverse weather forecast, the final hour before lunch proved to be the turning point between the title contenders.
At that stage it seemed that Lancashire were in control but the closing stages of the singles saw the match swing Wiltshire’s way as they gained a crucial one point lead, which left Lancashire needing 2.5 points from the three foursomes, a difficult assignment indeed.
As it turned out they secured two wins which meant the Northern champions came up short.
Wiltshire captain David Bauer acknowledged that when he said: “This is an incredible achievement for such a small county as Wiltshire. To win once, as we did last year, was superb but to defend the title is the stuff of dreams,” he admitted.
“We were quietly confident when we arrived this week but at 12.30 today was the only time I didn’t think we would win. But somehow we turned the match around thanks to Garry Slade winning on the final green and Robbie Busher coming back from 5-down to gain a half.
“That half proved crucial and these two lads were the rookies in the team. Garry won all his singles while Robbie was unbeaten in his. All this proves that Wiltshire is producing some incredible talent.”
Lancashire’s Bill Bromilow, in his last match as county captain, was magnanimous in defeat. “The better team won,” he said. “They out-putted us. We gave them a scare this morning but they turned it around in the last few holes which left us needing two-and-a-half points from the foursomes which is difficult to achieve.
“We came here hopeful but that last hour this morning turned it. There were four quality teams here but Wiltshire deserved their victory.”
Having seen their grip taken away in that vital hour before lunch, the Lancastrians knew they faced an uphill task in the foursomes but Mark Young and Paul Kinnear kept their hopes alive with a 5 and 4 win over Ben Loughrey and Busher.
However, they knew the battle was over when Ali James and Josh Loughrey gave Wiltshire the vital point when they ran out 4 and 2 winners over John Carroll and Jon Hurst in the top game.
The final game went to Lancashire’s Paul Howard and Sean Towndrow over Slade and Jordan Smith.
Suffolk also took a one point lead into the foursomes after Josh Cottrell, who had been 4-down at one stage, gained a crucial half on the final green against Rudy Hercik.
That gave them a fillip for the foursomes from which they emerged with two wins and a half.
Cottrell and Patrick Spraggs were ahead early on against Chris Heeley and Richard Sadler but found themselves 2-down after 11 holes. But birdies at the 12th and 15th saw them all square and they also won the 16th and 17th for a 2 and 1 win.
Chris Soanes and Ben Wallis ensured Suffolk’s victory when they led almost throughout against Josh Carpenter and Henry James before running up a 3 and 2 scoreline.
It looked as if Worcestershire would win the other contest when Hercik and Steven Lane came to the 18th 1-up. But they four-putted to open the door and Suffolk’s Jack Cardy and Nathan Overton seized their chance to gain a half.