England are celebrating a hat-trick of victories at this year’s Women’s, Boys’ and Girls’ Home Internationals.
The boys’ team won their competition after a tense deciding match against Ireland at Ashburnham in Wales and the women and girls then completed a rare treble with victories over the same opposition on a weather-affected final day at Downfield in Scotland.
England win in the Boys’ Home Internationals was their fourth in a row but it required a battling performance to come from behind and beat a formidable Irish side.
The England team lost the morning foursomes 3 ½ – 1 ½ but then stemmed the tide when Conor Gough halved the first singles against Tom McKibbin before Joe Pagdin, Robin Williams, Max Hopkins, Enrique Dimayuga and Habebul Islam put five further points on the board to take their side to within touching distance of winning the match.
Islam’s match proved key to England’s success. He had a one-hole lead playing the last but needed to get up-and-down from 80-yards to make a par before seeing his opponent Simon Walker miss from 20-feet for a birdie.
That point set up Callum Macfie to provide the winning point and he duly did so when he birdied the 17th to beat Max Kennedy 2 & 1 and ensure that England will retain the trophy for another year.
“Even though we lost the foursomes this morning, I just felt that we could get six points out of the singles and that would do the job,” said England captain, Steve Burnett. “We’ve got a very strong team and I knew they might just be stronger over the closing nine holes when the conditions got a little tougher.
“The wind picked up and the back nine played harder and the boys showed their talent by turning matches around that Ireland might have won. We got a lot of good performances. I thought Conor’s half point in the first match was important to get us off to a good start. Habebul’s par at the last was crucial because it set up Callum to take us over the line, which he did. I’m over the moon.”
England wins over Ireland in the deciding matches in the Women’s and Girls’ Home Internationals in Scotland proved to be equally dramatic but not before the weather almost brought the proceedings to a premature end.
Torrential rain forced the foursomes to be scrapped and there were also long delays before the singles were completed.
In the end, England edged to a 3 ½ – 2 ½ victory to win the Women’s event for the first time since 2016 at Conwy in Wales. Bel Wardle, Lily May Humphreys and Emily Toy won the first three singles for England, but Jessica Ross and Lauren Walsh then responded with wins for Ireland before current English champion Ellen Hume halved the final singles against Paula Grant to secure the all-important half point.
“It was a terrific all-round effort and it was a good end to a long day,” said the English captain, Helen Hewlett. “The team was fantastic and we are delighted with the win.”
The deciding match against Ireland in the Girls’ Home Internationals proved to be even tighter with no less than four of the six matches going to the 18th green.
The two sides eventually shared the singles 3-3 but England were declared the winners on account of the fact they had accrued two more points than their Irish rivals over the first two days against Scotland and Wales. The English winners in the decider were Jessica Baker and Isabelle Simpson, while Caitlin Whitehead and Rosie Belsham both halved their matches.
“I’m delighted,” said the winning captain, Janet Melville. “Every time play was suspended we were ahead but all of a sudden things changed. Izzy (Simpson) was the stand-out player. She was three down with five to play but won the 14th with a birdie and went on to win on the 18th. She told me before she went out after the rain she was going to win her point.”
England now have a chance to complete a clean sweep of Home International titles when the men’s event is played at Lahinch on September 11-13.
Image credit The R&A