“I only think about THAT putt once a day – it used to be every hour!” – Sussex’s Steve Graham

TO say that the Sussex squad has a burning desire to win this year’s Senior Men’s County Finals would be the understatement of the season.

The truth is they have been counting down the minutes to this week’s 2019 championship ever since they qualified through the regional rounds.

There are some golfing ghosts to be exorcised on the fairways of Effingham GC.

In order to understand the full story let’s rewind 12 months to the 18th green at Stanton-on-the-Wolds GC.

With one hand on the trophy and rivals Lancashire squad members already beginning to congratulate Sussex on a job well done, the Gods intervened.

Perhaps, more accurately, Bryan Hughes intervened. The veteran rammed a 30-foot birdie putt into the cup to beat Colin Jones on the 18th hole and shatter Sussex’s hopes of a first win in the event.

Hughes’ monster putt (pictured above) secured a vital point for his county as they came from behind in the final hour of the final match to pip Sussex to the post. Without that tramliner dropping, Jones would have earned a half point to give Sussex the silverware.

Lancashire have not made it through to the finals to defend their trophy.

Instead, Sussex, Dorset, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire will battle it out to be named top dogs on the senior circuit

And the same Sussex squad which came agonisingly close to winning their first Senior crown last year are back as men on a mission.

“I don’t think about that putt all that often,” said Sussex stalwart Steve Graham.

“It’s only once a day now compared to once an hour!

“It was a bit of a bombshell and I think it’s safe to say that we all have the motivation to go one better this year.

“Fair play to Bryan and Lancashire for winning but it was a blow to us after playing so well all week.

“Some of the Lancashire boys were starting to say ‘ah well, it looks as if you’re going to win’. Then came that putt.

“This is the third year in a row that we have reached the finals. The competition will be tougher than ever, but maybe we’ll be the ones to hole a winning putt.”

Irish international Graham – a member at East Sussex National – has enjoyed a fantastic year as an individual winning both his county title and then the champion of champions at Frilford Heath GC.

But he’s not the only player enjoying a good burst of form late in the season.

Yorkshire can boast the talents of Rich Jones and Richard Norton who both played for England in the recent Home International win at Alnmouth GC.

Paul Wharton also contributed to the England triumph and will be in the Lincolnshire ranks for three days of competition alongside four of his fellow members from the home of England Golf at Woodhall Spa GC.

Dorset’s squad is also a talented one having made it to the same stage last season before finishing third behind Lancashire and Sussex.

Of the four counties competing this year, only Yorkshire have previously managed to get their hands on the trophy.

That was in 2017 when they won the title at Goswick GC.

All four counties are bidding to win the title which was first competed for in 2005 at Minchinhampton GC.

Effingham should provide a stern test for the seniors after recent renovations to a course regularly used in the past for Open Regional qualifying.

The Surrey downland course designed by Harry Colt remains true to the original design with a few modernising tweaks and should test the mettle of the competitors.

The format for the championship is a round robin with one match per day consisting of three foursomes and six singles games.

SQUADS

DORSET: David Barton, Ashley Beckett, Philip Bill, Tony Coles, Gary Earl, John Pounder, John Smith, Malcolm Taylor.

LINCOLNSHIRE: Richard Latham, James Lee, Simon Ostrom, Tim Seaton, Les Toyne, Colin Trestrail, Paul Wharton, Jeremy Woodcock

SUSSEX: Malcolm Cawte, Martin Galway, Steve Graham, Colin Jones, Martin King, Mark Logan, Doug Park, Paul Plant

YORKSHIRE:  Ian Clarke, Rich Jones, Andy King, Johnny Lawrence, Mark Lawson, Stephen Mason, Richard Norton, Alan Wright

 

Photograph credit: Leaderboard