The three-man team from Birstall Golf Club made up nine shots to claim the title of English Champion Club – and set a date to seek European glory.
Chris Webb, Jack Merry and Steve Sansome beat the halfway leaders, City of Newcastle, on countback after both teams finished on 11-over par at Brancepeth Castle in Durham. Birstall’s second round total was just four-over par, while their rivals were 13-over.
Now they will represent England in the European Champion Club tournament in Cyprus in October.
Keith Marston, president of the Leicestershire & Rutland club, said: “This is the biggest thing that has happened to Birstall in our 114-year history. I’m very, very proud of them, it’s been a very special and emotional day.”
After the first round, the team were a combined seven-over par and nine shots behind the City of Newcastle – but they weren’t daunted. “We knew if we played well we would have a good chance,” said Sansome, who is a past winner of the English mid-amateur championship.
He and Merry duly obliged with rounds of two-under 68 and 67 respectively, but Webb feared he had let the team down when he scored 79. However, his par on the last proved crucial.
“I had the biggest sigh of relief when we found we had actually won. It was a very, very long 45 minutes and I couldn’t look at the scoreboard,” he said.
Merry, meanwhile, had the low-score of the day with his three-under 67. “I played quite solid and then had three birdies in the last five holes,” he said. “I’ve never played competitively overseas so it will be fantastic to go to Cyprus.”
Sansome summed up for them all when he said: “We are really thrilled, absolutely delighted. We knew we had a good team – but there’s a lot of other good teams here.” All three players hold plus handicaps.
City of Newcastle, Northumberland, had to settle for the runners-up spot, just as they did in 2009. One shot behind them, on 12-over, were third placed Workington from Cumbria.
City of Newcastle’s Phil Ridden, who went round in one-over par today, had the compensation of topping the individual leaderboard on four-under, one ahead of Merry. Joshua McMahon of Redditch also beat par for 36 holes, finishing on one-under.
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Caption: (from left) Chris Webb, Jack Merry and Steve Sansome with the English Champion Club trophy (image © Leaderboard Photography)