Hampshire tighten their grip at County Finals

Martin Young

Hampshire beat Northumberland 6-3 today to move ahead in the race for the English Men’s County Championship at Trevose, Cornwall.

It’s their second win from two matches and it made them favourites for the title. If they win or halve tomorrow, when they meet Staffordshire, they will be champions for the first time since 1996 when Justin Rose was in their team.

But Somerset beat Staffordshire 5.5-3.5 today and the result gives them a win apiece and means both counties are still in the hunt. If Hampshire lose and they win the result will be decided on a countback.

It’s the result Somerset was aiming for at the start of play today. They had the setback of a narrow loss yesterday, but they knew from their last appearance at County Finals in 2015, that they could play their way back into contention.

Captain Justin Lane commented: “First and foremost the goal was to win and the guys played brilliantly. Now it’s all to play for tomorrow, three counties have a chance and hopefully it will all come down to countback.”

Hampshire captain Martin Young (pictured top) has other ideas. He’s playing at his eighth County Final and would dearly love the win. “We’ve given ourselves the best chance, it’s in our own hands now and we will give it a go,” he said.

Today’s matches were playing through the increasingly testing conditions, with strong winds and rain whipping across the seaside course in the afternoon. But the standard of golf remained high and the matches were hard fought.

Somerset and Staffordshire were locked in a tight battle all day. They shared the foursomes and in the afternoon singles both counties scored one big win with Staffordshire’s Lewis Pearce getting the better of Josh Hilleard 5/4, while Somerset’s Philip White beat Tom Hewitt 5/3. But the other games were extremely close with the two teams going tit-for-tat in the scoring.

Staffordshire’s Gian-Marco Petrozzi was two down at the turn but managed to peg back Jamie Clare for a half, with the help of a conceded eagle two on the 15th where he drove the green. Somerset’s Thomas Plumb held on to his lead, despite three birdies from Jack Gaunt on the back nine, and won on the 18th. Staffordshire’s Ryan Brooks grabbed an amazing half for his team when he holed a 60ft putt for birdie on the last.

The outcome of the match rested on the final game and Will Poole successfully delivered Somerset’s victory when he won 2up. He’d been wrong-footed at the start of the match when his opponent started birdie, eagle but Poole was two-up after 10 and, although he was pulled back to all square after 16, he won the last two holes.

Hampshire got ahead early in their match against Northumberland, winning the foursomes 2-1, and they lost no time in confirming the overall victory in the singles.

Young led the way, working steadily towards his 3/2 win. He was soon followed by Matt Wilcox, who had three birdies in six holes on the back nine as he powered to a 5/3 win. Billy McKenzie won the last to finish 1up in a very close game in which nine of the first 11 holes were halved.  Tom Robson completed the score when he finished 4/2 for Hampshire.

Northumberland’s singles points were scored by Daniel Shevill and Sandy Twynholm (pictured below), who has been playing county golf for 34 years, has a record 121 caps and last played at County Finals in 1996. He was round in level par today for his 3/2 win and remarked: “It was tricky but I hit the ball quite loose and natural and although it wasn’t easy I just battled through.”

Tomorrow’s final matches:
Somerset v Northumberland
Hampshire v Staffordshire

Image copyright Leaderboard Photography.