Sussex go into the final day at Senior Men’s County Finals with a lead and a burning desire to finally get their hands on the trophy that has so cruelly eluded them on three previous occasions.
A halved match with Yorkshire followed by a 5-3 triumph against Warwickshire on day one of the series makes the equation for a Sussex victory simple; beat Dorset tomorrow and become champions.
However, a last day slip from Sussex could open the door for either Dorset or Warwickshire to walk through and claim the prize.
Only Yorkshire go into the final session with nothing but pride to play for after a disappointing day for the defending champions at Grange Golf Club in St Helens.
For Yorkshire, the day started with an excellent drawn game with Sussex and ended with a costly 4.5-3.5 defeat to Dorset.
Sussex captain Rick Thomas knows that his team don’t need much in the way of motivational speeches from him going into the Dorset encounter.
Two years ago Yorkshire pipped his team with the final putt on the final green in the final match on the course.
A year prior to that his side were bridesmaids with Yorkshire once again taking the prize and several players in his side such as Steve Graham (pictured below), Colin Jones and Andrew Smith have plenty of reasons to get over the line this time.
“I think what it does is enhance their desire to win it, they want to take it as they feel that they’ve lost it unnecessarily in the past,” said Thomas.
“They just want to take what is theirs.
“We’ll see – all to play for tomorrow.
“It was a great effort today – the only disappointing thing was to half the match with Yorkshire.
“The day starts with red figures on your side and then the red bleeds over to the opponent!
“I’m still wandering around like an expectant father – you can take nothing for granted. I keep seeing lots of putts drop and they are not always ours!
“But the boys have done well and we have a good squad with new players who are well up for it and play for each other.”
The morning match against Yorkshire was hard fought and a draw – although not satisfying either side – was probably a fair result.
Steve Graham and Andrew Smith polished off the top Yorkshire duo of Rich Jones and Richard Norton by the respective margins of 3&2 and 4&3.
Martin Galway and Doug Park also put points on the board for Sussex, but Yorkshire fought back with Andy Woodhead and Andy King concluding wins on the 17th hole.
Captain John Grimbleby’s decision to put Alan Wright and Stephen East in the final two matches paid dividends as they secured comfortable wins to ensure a 4-4 final score.
Victory against Warwickshire in the afternoon session teed up Sussex for their final push.
Smith, Graham, Martin Galway, Paul Plant and Doug Park got the points which dented the Midlands’ representatives hopes of success.
While Sussex can control their own fate, Warwickshire need a big win against Yorkshire tomorrow to stand a chance of glory.
Warwickshire’s win on day one came in the morning session against Dorset.
Tony Allen, Tim Cooley, Ken Spencer and Stephen Creed all recorded handsome victories to put points on the board for Warwickshire.
Warren Bladon (pictured above) also added a point although it took until the 18th hole to shake off the challenge from Gary Earl (pictured below).
Dorset’s recovery came in the afternoon against Yorkshire – despite injury to Tony Coles restricting them to actively competing in only seven of the eight singles games.
With Coles injured, Dorset’s opponents in both morning and afternoon matches were obliged to nominate a player to sit out. Under the terms of competition, each side was awarded half a game point.
John Smith, David Barton, Mike Spearing and Mark Stickley came up with the full points against Yorkshire which took their team tally to 4.5 and a precious match win.
Now – for three teams at least – there is all to play for with a two-tee start in operation for the matches which commence at 9.30am.
Photography credit: Leaderboard