Lancashire marked their return to the English Senior Men’s County Finals with a hefty 8.5-0.5 win over Worcestershire, while titleholders BB&O (Berks, Bucks & Oxon) endured a nervy spell before clinching their 6-3 win over Devon.
The four teams, each representing one of the England Golf men’s regions, are playing for the title in a round robin tournament in perfect autumn weather at Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire.
The nerve of the defending champions was thoroughly tested in today’s opening match. BB&O were down in all three foursomes this morning before managing to turn two around with 2up wins from the pairings of David Niven and Andrew Stracey and Malcolm Reid and George Best Wilson.
Niven, an England senior international, and Best Wilson both swept away to big wins in the singles, scoring 6/5 and 7/6 respectively. But then the tension kicked in: “We’re fighting for our lives,” said Niven after a look at the scoreboard, which showed BB&O trailing in three games and all square in one.
Former international Andrew Stracey (image © Leaderboard Photography) ended the agony when he grabbed a one-hole lead on the 16th and held on to it over the remaining two holes, despite plenty of excitement along the way.
“I got lucky after a dreadful tee shot on 17 which looked as though it was going out of bounds,” said Stracey. He just managed to get his second up by the green before chipping and putting for his par – while his opponent played the hole in textbook style. On the 18th his opponent had a putt to halve the match but once it slipped by BB&O secured their point. David Cromie completed their scoreline when he managed to turn his game around and win 2/1.
Team captain Ashley Brewer commented: “This was another Titanic battle between Devon and BB&O, but played in a very friendly spirit. We got out of jail again and were very lucky!”
Lancashire won this title in 2014 but missed out on a place in last year’s County Finals. They came back in style with today’s unbeaten performance which began with three very comfortable foursomes wins, courtesy of Ian Crowther and Gary Byrne; Bill Bromilow and Robert Fox; and Tony Holt and Trevor Foster.
They went on to power through the singles, led by Crowther, also an England senior international, who scored their first point with his 2/1 win. “We were all square through nine and it could have gone either way, but I just managed to scramble through at the end,” he said.
He was quickly followed by Foster who has just joined senior ranks after playing 108 times for the Lancashire men. “I’m loving it,” he said after recording his 3/1 win. Byrne, Ian Westwell and Holt added their points to the tally before Worcestershire’s Bryan Swain stopped the whitewash.
He finished birdie, par to win the last two holes against Alan Gillespie and grab a half point for his team. “I was determined to get that,” he said afterwards.
Lancashire’s manager Mike Gray said afterwards: “We’re very pleased, the team has performed to all our expectations and we’ve achieved our first aim. But we will take each of the sessions as they come.”
Tomorrow Lancashire play Devon while BB&O play Worcestershire.
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