England made a strong start to this weekend’s mixed international at Burnham & Berrow in Somerset and take a four point lead into tomorrow’s matches.
It’s the first time in the 30-year-history of the match that the teams have been mixed – and the women quickly made an impression.
In the morning foursomes Bethan Popel had a hole-in-one on the 14th. Then, in the singles, Gemma Clews sealed a successful day for the team when, playing in the last match on the course, she fought back from three down to win on the 18th.
She contributed to a 9½-5½ scoreline which included a host of other highlights on a testing day, when a stiff breeze blew relentlessly across the superbly prepared course.
England had got off to a flying start in the match, winning four of the five morning foursomes. There were some big wins as the England players proved themselves better at coping with the tough conditions, notably from English amateur champion Nick Marsh and Michael Saunders who closed out their game on the 12th.
In the afternoon the Spanish came out in determined mood and had the upper hand over the opening holes. But, as Graham Walker, the England men’s coach commented: “We managed to stem the tide and the first few matches were ours.”
Ashley Chesters, the double European champion, (pictured left) led the way in the singles with a 5/4 win which was especially notable for a run of three consecutive threes. He birdied the 12th, eagled the 13th and parred the 14th after his tee shot hit the pin and ricocheted off the green into a deep hollow, from which he played a magical pitch.
Ashton Turner and Jimmy Mullen followed Chesters to get those important early points on the board. Turner had to wait until the 13th before he finally got ahead in his match, eventually winning 2/1. Mullen, by contrast, was never behind and dismissed his opponent on the 14th. Meanwhile, Nick Marsh battled away and secured a half point, despite having been two down after 10.
Alice Hewson was a couple under par on the outward half and was another very comfortable winner, finishing 4/3. Then, attention focussed on Clews (image © Leaderboard Photography) who was clawing her way back, having been three down after 11.
She won the 12th with a birdie, fired a super-accurate shot into the 13th to win that hole, and got back to all square with a solid par on 15. By now, a sizeable gallery which included fellow team players and officials, had gathered to watch her win 16 with another immaculate par.
Both players missed makeable birdie chances on the short 17th and on the 18th they both ran through the green with their approaches. But, Clews chipped dead to secure the point for England.
Women’s team captain Steve Robinson commented: “We set ourselves the target of not losing a session against Spain, who are a very strong team, and we’ve seen some great quality golf and some really good, battling performances from all the players in tough conditions.”
Men’s team captain Graham Walker echoed him: “The standard of golf from the England players matched the warm welcome from Burnham & Berrow members and staff.
“We got off to a great start this morning with all the players keeping the ball in play in blustery conditions and with some trick pin placings.
“Overall it’s been a pretty good day for the England team.”