Yorkshire and Gloucestershire were the winners on an ace first day at the English Men’s County Finals at Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
Gloucestershire’s Nick Day provided the highlight with a hole-in-one on the 4th en route to a win in the morning foursomes. Then, the English mid-amateur champion followed up by delivering the winning point in the singles, taking the team to a 5-4 win over BB&O (Berks, Bucks & Oxon).
Gloucestershire were put on the back foot after the three foursomes when only Day (pictured top) and his partner, Alex Ireland, managed to win. The hole in one helped, although BB&O’s George Baylis almost answered him, with a shot which ran round the rim of the hole before settling a foot away. “It couldn’t have been closer without going in,” said referee Graham Webb.
However, the South West team quickly grabbed the initiative in the singles. International Joe Long rocketed off to win 7/5, followed by Joe Harvey who posted a score of 7/6 and then the 3/2 win of England player Mitch Waite.
Gloucestershire needed one more point and Day provided it when he came out on top after a very close match against Tim Shin. “It was a real topsy-turvy game,” he said after finishing 2up.
Day had been 2up on the outward half, only to drop behind around the turn. The par three 13th and 15th, which he played in birdie, par, changed his fortunes and gave him a narrow lead which he clung to resolutely as the pressure built.
Team captain Gary Ward praised his team: “They were awesome. They really dug deep.”
The day’s other match saw Yorkshire beat Lincolnshire 6.5-2.5 in an intriguing encounter. All of the Lincolnshire players work and play golf in their spare time; only one of the Yorkshire players has a full-time job. He’s Lewis Hollingworth, (pictured left) a PE teacher at Maltby Academy, Rotherham – and he played a key role in today’s victory.
Hollingworth, playing in his first County Finals, teamed up with Sam Bairstow to give Yorkshire a 2-1 lead after the morning foursomes. They hadn’t been in front since winning the first hole, but they turned the game around when they parred the 17th to go 1up and then held on to win when the 18th was halved. The team’s other foursomes point was provided by Sam Rook and Bailey Gill, who also won 1up.
In the afternoon Yorkshire were quick to put more points on the board with internationals David Hague and Gill both winning 6/4 at the top of the order.
Then it fell to Hollingworth to take the team over the winning line on the 14th with his 5/4 win. “Darryl (team captain) said on the 13th tee that we were looking all right, but that if I could get over the line it would be good,” said Hollingworth, who duly obeyed orders with a pair of pars.
The Yorkshire total was further boosted by Bairstow, who won 3/1, and by Rook, the county champion, who halved his game.
Yorkshire captain Darryl Berry has enormous confidence in his players’ ability in the singles – although the big names in his team mean they’re always a target. “We have a lot of players who would be big scalps for other teams, but I’m always confident they will win. It helps for us to have those players because the whole team bounce off each other,” he said.
• Gloucestershire secretary James McPherson and his wife, Carole, took the phrase ‘flying the flag’ to heart (pictured below). They carried their county flag around the course – while a contingent of BB&O players took pleasure in standing in front of it to block the view!
Tomorrow Yorkshire will play BB&O while Gloucestershire take on Lincolnshire.