It was tense, it was tight – but England came through to win the weekend international against France by 14-10 at Formby Golf Club in Lancashire.
“It was very tense, as we said it would be, and I am so proud of the boys,” commented England team captain, Kevin Tucker. “They have been a pleasure to be with, they are a fantastic set of lads.
“All credit to the French team – they came back hard this afternoon, as we knew they would. It’s never easy to win an international match and the experience will do my lads a lot of good, especially our four debutants, Scott Gregory, Josh Hilleard, Bradley Moore and James Walker.”
The team – which received good luck wishes from Masters champion Danny Willett – went into the final singles session with a two-point lead and, to begin with, they seemed set to race to the title.
But the determined French team had other ideas and, after each side claimed an early win, the afternoon turned into a dogged battle, with a series of close games.
Ashton Turner led the way for England with his biggest international win to date, playing four under par for 12 holes and beating his opponent 7/6. But, as he remarked: “At the end of the day it’s one point for the team and that’s what matters.”
Alfie Plant and Bradley Moore were next to score, each putting half a point on the board after tenaciously holding on. Plant was one down after 16 but birdied 17 to get back to all square and then halved the 18th. Moore lost the 16th and 17th to birdies to be one down with one to play – but won the 18th.
Behind them, Paul Kinnear and James Walker were making ground. Kinnear had to wait until the 10th to get ahead in his game, but once there, he stayed there and was certain of at least half a point when he got to two up after 16.
Walker was never behind in his game and gradually worked his way to three up after 12. He held on to that score through 15 – and another half, at least, was assured.
Scott Gregory – playing in the last match – provided the guarantee that England would reach the necessary points total. Early on, he was either one down or all square in his match but he forged ahead with three consecutive birdies from the 13th. It meant, he too, was three up with three to play, and England was certain of victory in the international.
In the end, all three players won their matches: Gregory by 3/1, while both Walker and Kinnear were one up.
It was a special moment for Kinnear, who was playing at his home club and said: “To win is fantastic and especially for me, at my home club. You see the members out there watching and you want to prove how good you are. I haven’t had my A game here this week but I haven’t been beaten in the singles and to get 1½ points is massive.”
This biennial international began in 1934 and England have now won 29 of the matches so far, conceding just five. The French team were last successful in 2010 in Chantilly.
Masters champion Danny Willett played in the 2008 match and sent his good luck message to the team last night. Tucker commented: “They were very pleased to receive it and it was very good of the Masters champion to send it.”
The full team was: Jamie Bower of Meltham, Yorkshire; Scott Gregory of Corhampton, Hampshire: Josh Hilleard of Farrington Park, Somerset; Paul Kinnear of Formby, Lancashire; Bradley Moore of Kedleston Park, Derbyshire; Alfie Plant of Sundridge Park, Kent; Ashton Turner of Kenwick Park, Lincolnshire; and James Walker of The Oaks, Yorkshire.
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