Gloucestershire sent out a clear message today when they launched their title defence in the English Women’s County Championship with an 8-1 win over hosts, Suffolk.
But Yorkshire went one better on the opening day of County Finals at Felixstowe Ferry, beating Hampshire 9-0. Meanwhile Nottinghamshire snatched a narrow 5-4 win over Buckinghamshire with a dramatic finish to their match.
Gloucestershire won the title for the first time last year – on their sixth consecutive appearance at County Finals – and they very much want to keep the trophy.
Captain Andra Knight commented: “We are very excited and very keen to do our best to retain the title. But we do know we have very strong teams opposing us and that everyone else is keen to stop us.”
Her young side – five of the nine players are still in full-time education – were hot off the blocks, winning all three morning foursomes. Ebonie Lewis and Caley McGinty romped to a 7/5 win, while the pairings of Alex Giles and Claudia Ovens and Alex Saunders and Ffion Tynan both won by 3/1.
Lewis (pictured top) kept up the pace in the singles, playing the first 12 holes in two-under par and signing off with a 7/6 win. The match winning point was scored by Claudia Ovens, who is just back from Prague where she and Saunders helped Exeter to the bronze medal in the European Universities Championships.
Behind her, Alex Giles, Grace Connelly and Caley McGinty added their points. Suffolk women’s champion Alice Barlow prevented the whitewash however, when she won her game on the 18th.
It’s the first time Suffolk have been at County Finals in 22 years and team captain Vanessa Bell, said: “We knew it was going to be tough and we did want to get more points on the board than we did, but I’m hoping it’s a good warm up for the rest of the week!”
Yorkshire were the day’s other big scorers, completing their whitewash when 14-year-old Mia Eales-Smith eagled the 17th to win 2/1. “She’s our pocket rocket and a very determined young lady,” said team captain Fran Dickson.
After a solid performance in the foursomes, the team followed up impressively in the singles. Their first win came from Megan Lockett who was four-under when she closed out her game 8/6, then the other players stacked up the points with wins from Megan Garland, Charlotte Heath, Nicola Slater and Olivia Winning, who holed a long putt on the last to win a real battle at the top of the order.
Eales-Smith is pictured right being given a piggy-back by Winning.
“There were some close times in this morning’s foursomes, the scoreline doesn’t always tell the story, but they’ve been amazing in the singles. They have played very well and consistently,” said Fran.
“But it’s early days and each day is a challenge. They are well aware of that and that nothing is easy.”
The third match was a very close fight between Nottinghamshire and Buckinghamshire which was decided only when the last pair reached the last green.
The teams shared the morning foursomes and, as the afternoon, unfolded, they remained locked. The first singles point was won by Buckinghamshire’s Alice Koslowski 7/6. The next went to Nottinghamshire 14-year-old, Libby Kilbride, who collected her second 7/6 win of the day.
So it went on as Thalia Kirby won for Buckinghamshire and Emma Howie replied for Nottinghamshire. But then Emily Cheshire put Notts in front with her 3/2 win and guaranteed them at least a halved result on the day.
Buckinghamshire’s Deeya Aggarwal was one up playing the last, but Nottinghamshire’s Lauren Spray hit a huge drive, followed up with a pitching wedge to within 2ft of the hole and grabbed the half point which gave her team the 5-4 win. Spray is pictured above, receiving congratulations.
Nottinghamshire team captain Helen Maber remarked: “Lauren just ground it out brilliantly. It’s been a very exciting day and they are all really up for it.”
Her team is a good blend of youth and experience – and for some of the younger players this is their first experience of links golf. But, as Helen said: “They are all really determined and very gritty.”
Tomorrow’s order of play:
Match 1 Gloucestershire v Hampshire
Match 2 Buckinghamshire v Suffolk
Match 3 Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire
Click here for full scores
Images copyright Leaerboard Photography