Teenagers Grace Connelly and Caley McGinty both pulled off a remarkable comeback to take Gloucestershire to the top of the table at the English Women’s County Finals at Royal North Devon Golf Club.
Connelly (pictured top) came from three down with four to play to win on the last; McGinty was two down with five to play and also won on the 18th. Their fightbacks transformed Gloucestershire’s fortunes, giving them a 4-1 win over Surrey.
They’re also the only team with two wins from two matches and have opened up a two-point gap at the top of the leaderboard. In today’s other matches Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire both bounced back from yesterday’s defeats to win today, beating Staffordshire and Norfolk respectively.
The golfing dramas were played out in the toughest of conditions, with the players battling the tailwinds of Storm Helene. The weather forced a change in format with play starting late and the matches each reduced to one foursomes and four singles.
Although the worst of the winds had blown through by the time play started, they were still brutally strong. Bags were blown over, flags were bending, par three greens proved extremely elusive and club selection was very challenging.
“I hit one rescue club 210 yards and another 100 yards,” said Gloucestershire’s Alex Saunders, who teamed up with Claudia Ovens to win the foursomes 6/5. “You could stand up and swing, but if you got a gust at the top of the backswing it could throw you off. But I really enjoyed it, it was great fun.”
They were quickly followed in by Ffion Tyan, who also won 6/5 and was only two over par. But then the battle began. Surrey’s Alice Spani-Molella had a comfortable 4/2 win and with Rafiah Banday and Katie Laud leading in the later stages of their games, the South region champions looked in great shape.
But Gloucestershire had other ideas. Connelly, 17, won the last four holes of her game to finish 1up and, for the second day in a row, sealed the team’s victory. McGinty, also 17, put the icing on the cake when she started her comeback with a winning birdie on 14, got to all square after 15 and won the 18th for her point.
Behind them, the young Yorkshire team halted the progress of Staffordshire, who had won yesterday. The Northern champions’ 3-2 victory was spearheaded by Mia Eales-Smith, who may be small in stature but overpowered the conditions to win 6/5. The foursomes pair of Evie Cooke and Lily Hurst won 2up, and Melissa Wood completed the victory with her 3/2 win.
“They played fantastically well,” said team captain Helen Lilley. “It was very tough, very hard work, but they all did really well, including those who lost. This will boost their confidence and help them find their feet.”
The final match pitted Buckinghamshire against Norfolk, who were both keen to get their first win on the board.
Buckinghamshire prevailed 3.5-1.5, with wins for the foursomes pairing of Alice Kozlowski and Georgina Bowers (2/1), Rachel Goodwin (3/2), Lily Robinson (8/6) and a half for Thalia Kirby.
“It was a great result, very, very good,” said team captain Sue Ashworth. “I think it was windier than they anticipated but our coach was very good at encouraging them to take enough club. The morale is good and hopefully we can build on that.”
Tomorrow more strong winds are forecast and play will start at 7.30am, with each match consisting of two foursomes and four singles. The draw: Yorkshire v Buckinghamshire, Norfolk v Surrey and Gloucestershire v Staffordshire.
Picutred below, from left: Yorkshire captain Helen Lilley with Melissa Wood and Mia Eales-Smith.
Images copyright Leaderboard Photography