Buckinghamshire produced the surprise result of the English Women’s County Finals when they held title challengers Yorkshire to a draw today at Felixstowe Ferry, Suffolk.
In the day’s other matches defending champions Gloucestershire beat Nottinghamshire 5.5-3.5 and Suffolk defeated Hampshire, also 5.5-3.5.
It means the title will be decided by tomorrow’s clash between Gloucestershire and Yorkshire. Gloucestershire, who have won all four of their games so far, hold a slight advantage in that a halved result will see them retain the trophy.
Today, Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire met with contrasting records behind them. Yorkshire had won all three of their earlier matches and, having conceded just two points from 27 games played, were top of the table.
Buckinghamshire had lost all their matches, were bottom of the table – and one of their players, Alice Kozlowski, revealed that they had decided to wear black kit today to show they were the underdogs and in mourning!
But there was nothing funereal about their golf. Instead they played with tremendous spirit, sharing both the foursomes and the singles.
In the morning Kozlowski and Georgina Bowers won for Bucks in a birdie-peppered game, while Megan Lockett and Mia Eales-Smith had a comfortable win for Yorkshire. In the decider Thalia Kirby (pictured top), playing with Victoria Bryan, raised cheers from the Bucks supporters when she holed a 12-footer on the last to set up the half.
In the singles both teams came out with great determination. Olivia Winning scored first for Yorkshire, but her point was quickly balanced by Kirby. Lockett earned her second point of the day for Yorkshire, but Bowers also did the double for Bucks.
Julia Gallagher made certain of the halved result for Buckinghamshire when she got up and down for par on the 16th and said: “It’s unbelievable, incredible.” Team captain Sue Ashworth added: “I am so proud of the girls, they are so positive and supportive.”
But the match wasn’t over. Buckinghamshire’s Victoria Bryan tried to pull off the overall win with a fight back which saw her go up the 18th just 1 down. But Mia Eales-Smith, a remarkably composed 14-year-old, made a textbook par to win the game for Yorkshire and confirm the halved result.
Afterwards Yorkshire coach Steve Robinson was quick to compliment their opponents: “Hats off to Buckinghamshire,” he said, while team captain Fran Dickson focussed on tomorrow’s challenge. “This isn’t a setback, we have still got to beat Gloucestershire, that’s the bottom line,” she said.
Gloucestershire looked set for a comfortable win after they claimed all three morning foursomes, but Nottinghamshire were determined to make them work for it. After six holes they were up in four of the six games and Emily Cheshire, Emma Howie and Rachel Boulton all went on win their games.
But Gloucestershire’s Ffion Tynan, also 14, came back from two down after 15 to halve her game, Claudia Ovens worked steadily to her win and Grace Connelly took the team over the winning line. She got ahead in her match when she eagled the 2nd and birdied the 3rd and, although she was pulled back temporarily around the turn, she went on to win 3/2.
In the final match, the hosts, Suffolk, won their second game of the week against Hampshire. They also had a clean sweep in the foursomes and were also tested in the singles.
County champion Alice Barlow posted an early win for Suffolk, but three games went to Hampshire before team captain Vanessa Bell, playing last, got the necessary point. The final game was halved.
Suffolk are in third place and determined to hang on to it. “Yorkshire and Gloucestershire are seasoned national campaigners and they are always going to be difficult. But to finish third would be brilliant – third in the whole country!” she said.
Images copyright Leaderboard Photography