Mother and daughter score historic play-off victory in PING Plate

Rachel and Helen Boulton

Nottinghamshire mother and daughter Helen and Rachel Boulton scored an historic win today when the Plate final of the PING women’s fourball betterball championship was dramatically decided for the first time by a play-off.

Three pairs had tied with 45 points and had to return to the 18th hole of the Thonock Park course at PING’s Gainsborough Golf Club for a sudden-death play-off. But Helen – a 20-handicapper – settled matters in style when she chipped in for a net birdie, appropriately using a Ping wedge (image © Leaderboard Photography).

Jing Reade from Bridgnorth Golf Club in Shropshire had a putt to keep the play-off alive, but it edged away from the hole at the end.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Helen, from Springwater Golf Club. “It’s crazy!” added Rachel, who was the 2015 Nottinghamshire county champion and helped her team to win last year’s English County Finals.

Second and third places were decided on countback, with Jing and her partner, Heather Stiles, finishing as runners-up, ahead of Carole Morris and Jill Sparkes from Romsey Golf Club in Hampshire.

Away from the drama surrounding the champions, the fourth place went to Ali Buncher and Hannah Brown-Pearce (Cotswold Edge) who had 42 points. Fifth were Mary Gibson and Melanie Williams (South Winchester) with 41 points, pipping sixth-placed Christine Fawcett and Melanie Temple (Seascale) on countback.

This is the 11th year of the PING championship, which is run by England Golf, and it additionally made history by attracting entries from the largest ever number of clubs – 890 – and involving over 16,500 women in the qualifying stages. The top 50 pairs nationally qualified for tomorrow’s Grand Final while the next 50 played in today’s Plate final.

Dave Fanning, PING’s European marketing director, told competitors: “This is a very special event and we are delighted to be able to host it at the home of PING Europe.”

The Boultons have an excellent record in this championship, reaching the Plate final once before and coming fifth in last year’s Grand Final, before pulling off today’s win.

But as the play-off was announced Rachel was counting the cost of a three-putt during regulation play. “I had a putt for an eagle on the sixth and I left it about 1ft away. I went to tap it in and missed! I thought ‘oh my gosh’ but I said to mum let’s just keep going.”

They stuck to the task and when Helen had her big chance she had just one aim. “I just thought ‘get it close.’ That’s what Rachel has been saying to me all day long.” Her chip from the fringe started on target and stayed there, popping into the hole to applause.

Jing Reade had no regrets about second place. “This has been so exciting, too exciting for me!” she said. Jing got her first handicap last year and is playing her first competitive season, she’s now off 34 but today’s play-off was a whole new experience for her, surrounded by buggies, a referee, other officials and interested spectators.

This was only the second time she and her partner, Heather, had played together. Their plan was simple: “We just wanted to come and have a really nice game of golf,” said Heather.

Neither was there any disappointment from Carole Morris and Jill Sparks, although they held the lead for hours before being edged out. “We just think we’ve done really well,” said Jill.

They were originally on the reserve list and made the most of their opportunity. “It’s been absolutely fantastic from the time we arrived, everyone has been so friendly and it’s so well organised,” said Carole.

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