Men’s County Finals: Gloucestershire and Northumberland make winning start

Gloucestershire and Northumberland made flying starts to Men’s County Finals with big wins on the opening day of the 2021 series at Remedy Oak Golf Club.

In sunny and flat calm conditions on a pristine course worthy of hosting the cream of the crop from the men’s county scene in England, Gloucestershire recorded a 6.5-2.5 win over BB&O.

Having established a 2.5-0.5 lead at lunch from the three foursomes games, Gloucestershire then won three and halved two of the six afternoon singles to claim an impressive victory against a BB&O side that had come into the event in good form.

Northumberland also proved too strong on the day for Warwickshire with a 5.5-3.5 victory as they try to emulate their boys’ squad and become English county champions.

View the day one results and scoring details

The morning session was claimed by a 2-1 margin and then three wins and a fighting half in one other singles game took them over the winning line.

Headline acts for Gloucestershire were Joe Harvey, Haider Hussain (main image) and Jake Phillips who won in both foursomes and singles.

“They knew they’d be playing the top pairing from BB&O and also wanted to go one two in the singles. They delivered in the way stalwarts of any team do.

And team captain Gary Ward admitted England’s men’s squad players Harvey and Hussain wanted to lead by example.

He said: “I spoke to Hedz on Monday and he said he wanted to play with Joe and go out first in foursomes.

“They knew they’d be playing the top pairing from BB&O and also wanted to go one two in the singles. They delivered in the way stalwarts of any team do.

“In the singles, it was nip and tuck and some superb play from our top three over the closing holes gave us the points we needed to get over the line.”

Northumberland have fused a good mix of youth and experience and team captain David Gilroy couldn’t have been happier with the day’s play.

James Wilson deserves mention for winning both his foursomes and singles – while Andy Minnikin delivered one and a half points for his side.

Gilroy added: “You’ve got to get off to a fantastic start and we did that, but my heart was pounding in the final hour.

“Fair play to the lads with Andy coming from three down with four to play to spin a half, and a young lad in Jamie Mann earning his colours with a singles win.

“We have a good mix and have a crop of young lads coming through that we want to blood and continue our success.

“Everyone has contributed to a great win and I must applaud Warwickshire for the spirit in which the games were played.

“Our guys are up for it and why wouldn’t they be? The course, the set-up, the clubhouse are all amazing and five-star all the way. Everything is spot on.”

The early morning mist had just cleared over Remedy Oak when Gloucestershire’s Harvey struck the first ball of the 2021 Men’s County Finals at precisely 8am.

The opening match of the series always promised to be a cracker – Harvey and England colleague Hussain up against two other England internationals in BB&O pair Olly Huggins and John Gough.

There was never more than a hole in it either way with the Gloucestershire duo arriving at the 18th tee with a single hole advantage.

A solid par four was enough to seal a one hole win for Gloucestershire’s lead pair who shot a highly commendable level par round of 72 – a single shot ahead of their opponents.

Nick Day and Phillips took down Conor Gough and Rory Browne on the 16th green having taken the lead with a birdie on the second hole and stubbornly refused to surrender their advantage.

The final match ended with an honourable half between Ben Loveard and Taylor Paul and Ed Butler and Tom Workman – the Gloucestershire pairing happier with the outcome having never been ahead in the game.

Northumberland were coasting in a couple of their morning matches against Warwickshire, before being made to fight for the narrow 2-1 advantage ahead of the afternoon singles.

Minnikin (pictured below) and  Wilson finally shook off the England boys’ squad duo of Sam Easterbrook and Seb Cave on the final hole having been four up with four to play.

Gary Donnison and Phil Ridden reached the turn five up in their clash with Warren Bladon and Louis Sanders, but by the 15th the lead was back to a single hole. They found a second wind, though, to close out the game 3&2.

Warwickshire’s first game point of the finals was delivered thanks to Rob Bardsley and Tom Ibbertson’s 4&2 victory against Jamie Mann and Mark Wharton.

The afternoon singles in both matches were tighter – but the same sides prevailed.

Gloucestershire had points delivered by Harvey, Hussain and Phillips while half points from Day and Butler were earned from losing positions.

However, it could have swung BB&O’s favour with five of the six singles matches being decided on the 18th green.

That will be sure to put fire in the bellies of BB&O for Friday’s play.

Northumberland’s singles winners were Wilson, Mann and Alex Dixon while Minnikin’s never-say-die spirit got him a half game against Sam Easterbrook.

In Friday’s matches, Gloucestershire will face Warwickshire and Northumberland clash with BB&O.

 

Photography credit: Leaderboard