Gloucestershire held the ace today as they opened their challenge at English Women’s County Finals with a 7.5-1.5 win over defending champions, Yorkshire.
The win was sealed in tremendous style by Grace Connelly (pictured top), who had her first hole in one on the par three 16th at Royal North Devon Golf Club.
As the 17-year-old walked on to the green she asked her opponent if her ball had gone through, glanced in the hole – and was overcome with excitement.
“I can’t believe it, I‘ve had a hole in one, I’ve waited four years for that,” she cried. Connelly hit an eight-iron for the 161-yard shot and her ace gave her a 3/2 win in her game and took Gloucestershire over the winning line.
This match was a battle of champions – Gloucestershire won this title in 2016 and Yorkshire pipped them to win last year. But, while the South West representatives are very experienced – six members of their 2016 winning side are playing – the Northerners are going through a transitional period, with a young and developing team. It includes only three players from last year’s triumph.
Gloucestershire captain Andra Knight remarked: “It’s been a fabulous day, played in the most wonderful spirit and very exciting to finish with a hole in one. We are always delighted to win but we never take anything for granted.”
In the day’s other matches Staffordshire defeated Norfolk 5-4 and Surrey beat Buckinghamshire 6.5-2.5.
Surrey and Staffordshire are both are returning to County Finals after an absence of a year and share an appetite for success.
“We reckon we’ve got as good a chance as anyone,” said Surrey captain Sally Parrish. “Gloucestershire are probably the favourites but this is match play, anything can happen – and we are up for it!”
Staffordshire captain Jenny Rhodes added: “The main ambition of the week is to have fun, but obviously to do well – and just keep playing steadily and persevering.”
Both teams had similar fortunes this morning, winning two points from three in the foursomes. In the singles, Staffordshire were always up in three games and managed to convert them into winning points with Emily Brennan and Georgina Wilkie scoring at the top of the order and Julia Gaunt bringing in the winning point in the last game.
Surrey seemed in a hurry to finish off their match with big singles wins from Rafiah Banday and Katie Laud, both 6/4, followed by Lauren Gooding 5/4 and Canice Screene 4/2. By contrast the other two games were tight, with Jessica Adams managing a half, while Buckinghamshire’s Thalia Kirby won the other.
Today’s action began with dreary morning weather but the singles were played in brilliant sunshine. However a steadily strengthening wind was a constant reminder of the deteriorating forecast for tomorrow when Storm Helene is expected to bring strong winds, with gusts up to 70mph across the UK.
As a result tomorrow’s play will start at 10am, with the three matches each reduced to one foursomes and four singles. Tomorrow’s draw is: Gloucestershire v Surrey, Staffordshire v Yorkshire; Buckinghamshire v Norfolk.
Tournament Director Scott Allison commented: “Royal North Devon is a very exposed golf course and we have to plan for the conditions while doing all we can to get the matches played. The weather forecast for the rest of the week is also bad and we will be reviewing matters on a daily basis.”
Images copyright Leaderboard Photography