Three counties open their championship account

Martha Lewis

Gloucestershire, Surrey and Yorkshire are the first day winners at English Women’s County Finals at Waterlooville Golf Club in Hampshire.

Gloucestershire and Yorkshire both sped off to big wins, respectively beating Buckinghamshire and Staffordshire by 7-2. But Surrey had to hold their nerve to finish off a tight 5-4 victory over Norfolk, who are playing in the championship for the first time in 42 years.

England U16 international Martha Lewis (image © Leaderboard Photography) and Katie Fewster, playing at the end of the order, both won their singles on the 18thgreen to claim Surrey’s point.

The six teams, each representing one of the England Golf women’s regions, are playing off over five days this week to find the country’s champion county.

Gloucestershire, who are playing their sixth consecutive County Finals, were today’s first winners. They shared the foursomes points with Buckinghamshire but then charged away with an unbeaten performance in the singles.

County champion Becky Gibbs was first to score, playing four-under par to win her game 6/5 – with a nod to the years of practice and play which underpinned her result. She’s getting married in two weeks’ time and, between preparations and work, she hasn’t had a lot of time for golf!

There was another big win for international Bethan Popel, who was five under when she won on the 14th, while Alex Saunders, Charlie Hiatt and Claudia Ovens provided the other wins and Ebonie Lewis halved.

Team captain Andra Knight commented: “This was an awesome singles result, they are all very gritty fighters. I’m very positive about this team, they gel well and they are all on an upward curve.”

In the day’s second match Surrey snatched a crucial advantage when they won the final foursomes to go in to lunch 2-1 up.

Norfolk made a charge in the singles, led by girl international Amelia Williamson. But Lauren Horsford banked an early point for Surrey and the team’s strong finish saw them through.

“We’re thrilled,” said Surrey captain Alison Taylor. “All day the matches have been incredibly tight. This morning it looked as though we would be 2-1 down in the foursomes but our third pair, who had been two down with five to play, won the 18th and suddenly we were 2-1 up – and it made a huge difference.

“This afternoon we were down in five games out of six at one point but the bottom two plugged away. We feel very lucky to have survived day one, it honestly could have gone either way.”

The final game featured Staffordshire, who are returning to County Finals after an absence of 15 years. They made a good start against Yorkshire, winning the foursomes 2-1, but the Northerners were on top form in the singles, winning all six games.

County champion Megan Garland was first to put her point on the board, playing par golf and winning 4/3 over a gritty opponent. Like several of the other county team players she’d made a dash down the country from Woodhall Spa, where the new women and girls’ champion of champion events was played yesterday – and where she took fourth place.

Curtis Cup player Rochelle Morris, England international Olivia Winning and Hannah Holden (pictured left), playing in the final game, all followed her with big wins while Alison Knowles won on the 17thand Melissa Wood on the 18thto complete the singles sweep.

Team captain Dawn Clegg said: “This morning was the spur and they certainly knew what they had to do this afternoon, it just gave them that push.

“Great credit to them this afternoon, they all played well and had very convincing wins. It really shows their mettle.

Tomorrow Surrey play Yorkshire; Gloucestershire play Norfolk; and Staffordshire play Buckinghamshire.

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