Teenager Ben Schmidt pulled off a great comeback today to give Yorkshire their second win at the English Men’s County Championship and set up a title shoot-out with Gloucestershire.
Schmidt’s hard-fought point gave the Northerners a 5-4 win over BB&O (Berks, Bucks & Oxon) at Aldeburgh Golf Club, Suffolk. Gloucestershire, meanwhile, defeated Lincolnshire 6-3, also for their second match win of the tournament.
The results mean that tomorrow’s head-to-head between the two teams will decide the outcome of the trophy. Victory would give Yorkshire their 22nd win, while Gloucestershire would claim both their third win – and a notable double, after the county’s women won their championship a couple of weeks ago.
Both teams made their first move in the foursomes, each claiming two of the three points on offer. Before long, though, drama was unfolding in the singles.
Yorkshire started the afternoon in style, with international David Hague playing nicely under par to defeat England team-mate David Langley by 3/2. Bailey Gill, yet another England player, added his point to Yorkshire’s tally on the 17th and took them to within touching distance of the win. But the team had to withstand a determined BB&O onslaught before they could get over the line.
First Tim Shin came back from 2 down after 12 to win on the last green, after a low scoring game in which the players notched up seven birdies between them. Then boy international Harrison Arnold broke through in a close match to win 3/1 – and the two counties were level-pegging with four game points apiece.
In the final game, Yorkshire’s Schmidt, trailed Adam Birdseye over the opening holes and was three down after nine. “I lost both my matches yesterday and I went into the back nine thinking ‘I really don’t want to lose another one’,” said Schmidt, who is the English Boys’ County Champion of Champions.
So the 16-year-old blocked out the pressure, clawed his way back and was 1up after 15 – only to put his second shot on 16 in the gorse. Back to all square.
A text book par on 17 was good enough to put him back in the lead, but he gave himself one more test before claiming his point. His long approach putt on 18 went 6ft past the hole and left him a nerve-tingling downhill, breaking putt – but he slotted it straight in for the win, to cheers from his team supporters. “It was nice to make that,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed today.”
Yorkshire captain Darryl Berry remarked: “He (Schmidt) was out to prove a point, he wanted his point and I knew he would dig in for us.
“It’s been a tough day, but we got the win and now it’s a shoot-out tomorrow – and it will be a good one.”
Gloucestershire captain Gary Ward echoed that after his team found their stride and then powered to their win.
Mitch Waite, yet another England player, led the way in the singles and was four-under when he won on the 16th. Joe Harvey followed up with another 3/2 win before Jake Phillips holed a 25-footer on 16 to both win his point and claim the match for Gloucestershire.
“It’s unreal, I’m dead chuffed,” said Phillips, who had been in a fairway bunker on the hole but who saved par with his great putt. “This is my Ryder Cup, this is as good as it gets for me and it’s fantastic.”
Gloucestershire’s team total rose with two halved games, thanks to Nick Day and Haider Hussain, who holed a 40ft putt on the last.
“They were outstanding today and now it’s all to play for tomorrow,” said Ward. “It was nip and tuck to start with, we didn’t pick up the pace for the first seven or eight holes and Lincolnshire have some cracking players, but then they were fantastic.
“Tomorrow we’ve got two great teams who have both performed well all week. Both teams have got the players and it will all be on the day.”