The battle of the champions will unfold tomorrow as BB&O and Lancashire go head-to-head in the title-deciding match at the English Senior Men’s County Finals.
BB&O (Berks, Bucks & Oxon) are the defending champions, while Lancashire were the 2014 winners – and they’re practically neck and neck so far in this year’s championship finale at Chipping Sodbury Golf Club in Gloucestershire.
After the first two days of the round robin tournament they each have two wins apiece, with BB&O beating Worcestershire 7-2 today, while Lancashire defeated Devon 5.5-3.5.
Lancashire hold a slender advantage, having won 14 games to BB&O’s 13 and that detail will come into the reckoning if they tie tomorrow. But both will be targeting an outright win.
“We are delighted to beat Worcestershire and set up a shoot-out with Lancashire,” said BB&O captain Ashley Brewer. “We are looking forward to having the opportunity to defend our title at the last hurdle.”
Lancashire manager Mike Gray commented: “Devon are very worthy opponents, they gave BB&O a tough game and they gave us a tough game. I am very glad we came through.” Looking ahead to tomorrow, he added: “It will be a good tussle, bring it on!”
Today’s golf was played in a strong and swirling breeze which made club selection and putting difficult. Tomorrow, the wind is again predicted to be a factor.
However the conditions clearly had little impact on BB&O’s Andrew Stracey. After teaming up with David Niven to contribute to the team’s 3-0 scoreline in the morning foursomes, the former England international sped off to win his singles by 8/7.
The team’s win was sealed by Scottish international Malcolm Reid who made a good start with a couple of early birdies and signed off 4/3. “It was really difficult to judge the wind and we got it wrong a number of times, but I probably just chipped and putted a bit better,” he said.
He was followed by Tim Whittaker, who also won 4/3, and Adrian Donkersley, who won the last two holes to finish 2up.
Afterwards Brewer noted, with a smile, that his game plan for the day meant: “I had the nerve to drop a Scottish international (Reid) this morning and an England international and county champion of champions (Niven) this afternoon! We are a team of eight.”
The match between Lancashire and Devon was a close fight, although the northerners always held the edge. They led 2-1 after the foursomes, but at the halfway stage of the singles, were leading in two, down in one and all square in three.
The game between Lancashire’s international Ian Crowther and Tim Aggett of Devon was among those which reached the turn all square. But Crowther edged ahead on the 13th and put the first singles point on the board when he birdied the 16th to win 3/2. “The wind was such a big factor,” he said. “It was swirling and circling around and it threw both of us, but I had a couple of good holes and a birdie to finish.”
Behind him Trevor Foster was fighting to hold on to his lead. The Lancashire player was four up after 10 but, as he struggled to hole the telling putts, his opponent pulled him back to just one up after 15. Foster missed a five-footer on 17 which would have given him the win, but he slotted a 6ft putt for his point on the last – then headed straight for the practice green, vowing to return tomorrow with a different putter.
Andrew Westwell (image © Leaderboard Photography) provided Lancashire’s third and crucial singles point with his 4/3 win. He won four holes in a row from the ninth and, after a bogey on the first, played the next 13 holes in two-under.
Westwell, who has been having lessons with England coach Graham Walker, said: “This is the best I’ve played for a while, I didn’t make any mistakes and gave myself lots of birdie chances. I was really pleased in this wind.”
Lancashire’s score was completed by the half of Alan Gillespie who was relieved when his charging putt on the 18th hit the hole and died inches away from the cup.
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