England’s women combined teamwork with individual brilliance to record a stunning 5-2 win against Sweden in today’s final of the European Ladies’ Team Championships.
The triumph is England’s 11th in the event’s 62-year history – and scarcely has a victory been as richly deserved.
England entered the final, played over the world-famous links at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, as huge underdogs.
However, the team had enough self-belief and talent to gain the edge needed to put a highly-rated Swedish team to the sword.
For the Swedes, there was to be no record-breaking fourth win on the spin at these championships.
After five days of intense competition no-one could argue that an England team featuring Emily Toy, Lianna Bailey, Annabell Fuller, Rosie Belsham, Charlotte Heath and Caley McGinty did not deserve their gold medal moment.
A foursomes win in the morning for the partnership of Toy and McGinty allowed the teams to share the spoils and go into the five afternoon singles locked at 1-1.
Singles wins for McGinty, Fuller and Heath along with half points supplied by Toy and Belsham gave England the sweet taste of success.
After a year when the team has been denied the chance to travel and play top level international competition, the victory was all the more commendable.
Speaking after receiving the trophy and sharing the joyous moment with her team-mates, Toy said: “This is a special moment for all of us.
“Even though we are brought up to play an individual sport, there is nothing better than winning as a team and winning a title for your country.
“The key to this week has been the team spirit. The camaraderie has been incredible.
“Every player has contributed to this special, special moment.
“We were all pulling for each other – when Lianna wasn’t playing she was caddying for me and that sums up just how much we were in this as a team.
“Little things like that make a huge difference.
“I was expecting tears at the end, but I was on the 18th green when I found out that the winning point had been claimed and it was a few minutes before we were all together on the 1st tee with people running from all directions!
“We’ve had a great week with a win in the quarters against the Czech Republic getting us into the right frame of mind for knockout games.
“Coming from 2-0 down to beat Scotland in the semis gave us huge belief.
“Sweden are a really strong team, but we knew that we had a great chance after winning one of the morning foursomes and the team was superb in the singles.”
Sweden went into the championship chasing a place in the history books with a fourth consecutive success.
Four of the Swedish squad are rated in the top six of the individual European rankings.
However, England were not daunted by reputations.
Indeed, as all five singles games headed into the back nine, England were ahead in four.
McGinty was four up on her rival with Toy, Fuller and Belsham leading by a single hole. Heath – having been four down at one point – was just one down and far from out of her match with Maja Stark.
In the end, Heath was the player given the honour of earning the point which put the result beyond doubt. A 2&1 win sparked emotional scenes among a group that peaked at just the right time to take the prizes and the plaudits.
It was a week when everyone contributed, but McGinty’s record of four wins out of five in the match play rounds is something of which the Gloucestershire golfer can be especially proud.
England’s journey to the final started on Tuesday when the 36-hole stroke play qualifying got under way.
With five of six scores counting towards the overall team tally, England comfortably qualified for the last eight in fifth spot with a team aggregate of 20 over par.
That saw the team pitted against their rivals from the Czech Republic in the quarter finals.
The format for the knockout stages saw two morning foursomes games followed by five singles in the afternoon.
Fuller and Heath won their foursomes tie comfortably to leave the scores level at 1-1 at lunch.
Toy, Heath, Fuller and McGinty then won their individual battles to secure a 5-2 match win for England.
The semi-final match-up with Scotland looked like being a classic – and didn’t disappoint.
Scotland qualified for the knockout phase as top seeds with Women’s Amateur Champion Louise Duncan, Scottish champion Chloe Goadby and Hannah Darling stalwarts of their line-up.
Scotland were quick out the traps to win both morning foursomes.
But while England were down, the team was far from out.
Toy once again led by example in the first singles game to down Darling by 3&1. In fact, she ended the week undefeated in singles.
The Cornish golfer must love the links at Royal County Down – this was also the scene for her victory in the Women’s Amateur Championship in 2019.
McGinty recorded the same winning margin against Goadby before the match came down to two clutch encounters.
Fuller holed putt after putt on the back nine to keep her match with Hazel McGarvie all square. With the game tied after 18 holes, Fuller eventually closed out the win on the 19th hole.
Belsham also showed typical grit to battle back from two down to defeat Shannon McWilliam by one hole and take England into the final.
Reflecting on the week, Jenny Henderson, assistant performance manager, said: “I have nothing but praise for this team.
“As a group they were a class act all week and they deserved the win against a very, very good Swedish team.
“Each and every one of them worked hard, backed up their team-mates, supported each other and performed when it mattered most.
“All the hard work they put in and all the hard work of the coaches is designed to create memorable moments like this.
“Days like this will never be forgotten no matter what they go on to do in their careers.”