Gloucestershire are the English Women’s County Champions for the first time – and their victory at Waterlooville Golf Club was the signal for celebrations, tears and a drenching for their captain.
Andra Knight was soaked by her ecstatic team as they got their hands on the trophy for the first time after winning a tight match against Yorkshire 5-4.
They’ve finally achieved their goal on their sixth consecutive appearance at County Finals and Knight said: “I can’t believe we’ve done it, I’m overwhelmed. What a team! They have gelled together all week and they just fought and fought and fought.”
They certainly had to fight today. The golf was excellent and intensely close with five of the day’s nine games decided on the 18th, including two which were halved.
The decider was the game of county champion Becky Gibbs who is getting married two weeks tomorrow and said: “What a wedding present!”
Gloucestershire had to win today, while Yorkshire would have taken the title with a halved result. The South West champions made their move early, taking a slender lead when they won the foursomes 2-1, holding their nerve to take their points on the 18thgreen.
In the afternoon the first two singles illustrated the great determination of both teams. Alex Giles finished her game par, birdie to win the last two holes and snatch a half for Gloucestershire. Then Alison Knowles produced exactly the same finish to grab her half for Yorkshire.
Behind then, the players were trading blow for blow. Gloucestershire’s Bethan Popel won the clash of the England internationals, beating Olivia Winning 3/2. Megan Clarke replied, winning her game 3/2 for Yorkshire.
Two games to go to decide the destination of the trophy. Yorkshire’s Rochelle Morris was on course for a 2/1 win in the bottom game and the outcome of the championship rested on the clash between Gloucestershire’s Becky Gibbs and Hannah Holden.
Gibbs won the 16thto go one up with two to play – and stepped into uncharted territory because all her previous matches had finished at or before this point.
She lost the 17thafter her drive found trees on the right but she took charge on the 18th, reaching the green in regulation three shots, while her opponent tangled with the rough around the green and a bunker. Gibbs won the hole, finished her match 2up – and the Gloucestershire celebrations began.
“I enjoyed it, but it was stressful. I knew it was all on me because I like to know what’s going on. I just really wanted to do it for all of them and it’s amazing,” said Gibbs, who was five-under when she finished.
Team coach Kirsty Taylor added: “We are just a great team. We have worked together on team building and it’s taken a while to bring it all together but they all deserve this. This is a young team which is growing, it’s been a work in progress for a number of years, and how good will they be next year?”
Yorkshire captain Dawn Clegg commented: “It was an excellent match, very tight, and both sides played extremely well. All credit to the girls.”
Norfolk made their first appearance at County Finals for 42 years and marked the occasion by winning the battle for third place with an emphatic 7.5-1.5 win over Buckinghamshire. The teams shared the foursomes but Norfolk won all six singles.
Team captain Tracey Williamson said: “It’s a superb effort to finish third. This is the first time a lot of our girls have played at this level and we will be able to build on the experience.”
In the day’s other match Surrey beat Staffordshire 6-3 and finished fourth in the table. They had two big wins, one in the foursomes, one in the singles, but the rest of the match was much tighter with four halved games.
Surrey captain Alison Taylor: “This is my last match as captain and I said to them last night ‘you have to win for me’ and they have been absolutely fantastic. They have given 100% and I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Final places: 1 Gloucestershire, 2 Yorkshire, 3 Norfolk, 4 Surrey, 5 Buckinghamshire, 6 Staffordshire.
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