Lancashire are the new English Senior Men’s County Champions – regaining their crown in a thrilling finale at Chipping Sodbury Golf Club in Gloucestershire.
They beat defending champions BB&O (Bucks, Berks & Oxon) 6-3 in today’s title decider, but the scoreline sounds much more comfortable than the reality.
Lancashire, who also won in 2014, got ahead early on by winning the morning foursomes 2-1. But BB&O made them fight every inch of the way in the singles, with five of the six games going to the 18th – and the sixth decided on the 17th.
“It was unbelievable,” said team manager Mike Gray. “They are just a great set of guys, a wonderful team. This was a fantastic game between two good teams.”
Both teams fielded an international player in the top singles with Ian Crowther representing Lancashire and David Niven leading the BB&O challenge. Their battle was typical of the afternoon’s play: close and hard fought with Crowther edging one up on the 17th, which he won with a superb up and down from behind the green.
But on the 18th, Niven won the hole with a par which included a penalty drop and a holed 25-footer. Crowther described it as the five of the century and said the halved match was “a fair result overall.”
Next was the fiercely contested game of Lancashire’s Trevor Foster and BB&O’s David Cromie. Foster was dormie two up but lost the 17th to a textbook par, before halving the 18th in par for his point. “It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was as good a match as I have ever had. In the first 12 holes David holed everything, I felt I was playing so well and he just kept coming back and back at me. It was a fantastic game of golf.”
His win meant Lancashire had 3.5 points and needed just one more to secure at least a halved result today and an overall victory, thanks to a slender advantage from their previous two matches. They had to wait a while when BB&O’s Tim Whittaker came back from four down after eight to win on the last.
But Andrew Westwell’s fighting finish took Lancashire over the line when he won 16, 17 and holed a testing downhill 3ft putt to halve the 18th for a one-up result.
Westwell, who is playing at County Finals for the first time, left the last green in tears after the emotion of the occasion overcame him. But he paid tribute to his ‘brilliant’ caddy and team-mate Robert Fox.
Alan Gillespie added another point to the Lancashire tally when he beat BB&O captain Ashley Brewer 2/1 and the scoreline was completed when Tony Holt halved his game with BB&O’s George Best Wilson.
Brewer said afterwards; “We gave them a run for their money and it was a close battle, but the right team won. Lancashire are very, very strong and congratulations to them, they deserved to win on the day. But we will be doing our best to try and relieve them of the trophy next year!”
In the play-off for third place Devon overcame Worcestershire 5-4. The South West team also led 2-1 after the foursomes and completed the win with successes from Tim Aggett, Tony Allsopp and Rick Pillow.
Team manager Jon Gynne was in charge for the last time and he was delighted to finish on a high. “The success is in getting here,” he said. “Then, you know you are going to come up against top players and you do as well as you can. We have done that and so I can’t ask for any more.”
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Lancashire image copyright Leaderboard Photography