Hampshire and Yorkshire score opening wins at County Finals

Ben Hutchinson

Hampshire and Yorkshire took the honours on a birdie-strewn first day of the English Men’s County Championship at Sandwell Park Golf Club in Staffordshire.

Hampshire – who received good luck wishes from former team-member Justin Rose – beat Cornwall 5-4, while Yorkshire defeated Warwickshire 7-2

The action on the first day of the round robin tournament unfolded on a bright autumn day, with many of the holes being decided by birdies. Both winning teams took the upper hand in the morning foursomes with Hampshire winning two of their three games and Yorkshire completing a clean sweep with a combined team score of 15-under par.

In the singles Hampshire, playing in the top match, claimed their first point with the 3/1 win of Billy McKenzie. He was quickly followed by Jordan Sundborg who took charge of his game when he won the 9th, 11th, 12th and 14th. He had been a couple down over the opening holes but, helped by some birdies, came out of that stretch three up and also closed out his match 3/1. “I played really well from the 7th and got a bit of momentum going,” he said.

Team captain Martin Young gave Hampshire the win with his 4/3 victory and was two-under when he finished. His round got off to a good start when he holed a long par putt to halve the first and, as he moved into gear, he won five holes in a row to reach the turn five up.

He’s suffering from a heavy cold and said: “Because I’m feeling a bit rough I played within myself, drove the ball well and hit it straight.” He went on: “I’m so pleased we have won and really pleased that the points have been shared out among the players.”

Hampshire, which includes the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, is fielding a young team which includes four rookies at County Finals. Young, by contrast, is playing in his seventh final and still waiting for a win! The last time Hampshire won this championship was in 1996 when Olympic champion Justin Rose was in the team.

He sent a video good-luck message to the side saying: “Go out and give it 100%, I am sure you will wear the badge well.”

In the day’s other match, Yorkshire laid the foundations of their win with their 3-0 foursomes success, before Steve Robins and Ben Hutchinson (pictured top)  forged ahead in the singles to clinch the victory.

Robins, who insisted he wasn’t playing his best, managed to score in style. He won five holes in a row from the eighth – helped with three birdies – before closing out his game on the 15th

Hutchinson grabbed the initiative straight away in his game and was four up after four and five up at the turn. He was three-under going out and, although he didn’t putt as well on the back nine, he won 3/2 to ensure Yorkshire’s point. “It was the winning point and that’s what counts,” he said.

His team-mates weren’t finished, although Warwickshire made them work for their points. Warwickshire’s Patrick Ruff, who was two down at the turn, took English amateur champion Dan Brown to the 18th and their game was halved. Warwickshire’s Matt Cryer had 16 pars and two birdies in his game, got ahead of Will Whiteoak on the 15th and their game also went to a halved result.

Liam Phipps took a point for Warwickshire with his 3/1 result, but Kealan Lowe, the Yorkshire order of merit winner, completed the team’s 7-2 scoreline when he won the last game 2/1.

Yorkshire captain Darryl Berry said: “It’s been a very good day’s work. I’m happy with the way they played and it’s a deserved win. They have stuck to what they had to do and their attitude has been brilliant. They’re all up for it!”

Tomorrow Hampshire play Warwickshire and Yorkshire play Cornwall.

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Image copyright Leaderboard Photography.