Yorkshire and Hampshire will meet tomorrow in a title showdown at the English Men’s County Finals at Sandwell Park Golf Club in Staffordshire.
They both won in today’s strong winds to make it two wins from two matches and set up the classic ‘winner-take all’ finale to the championship.
Both teams were wrong-footed in the foursomes and trailed 2-1 at lunch, but they came out with such determination in the singles that tomorrow’s head-to-head promises to be excellent.
Hampshire, which includes the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, powered through the singles without losing a game and beat Warwickshire overall by 6.5-2.5. Yorkshire’s singles challenge was spearheaded by Will Whiteoak, who won on the 13th, and the team went on to defeat Cornwall 5.5-3.5.
Hampshire’s win was a milestone in their recent history for it’s the first time in at least seven outings at County Finals that the team have won on the Saturday.
“We always win on the first day then tie or lose on the second, so this is fantastic,” said team captain Martin Young. He played his own part in the success, teaming up with Billy McKenzie to get Hampshire’s sole point in the foursomes and the polishing off his singles 7/5.
“This morning was a bit disappointing, but Warwickshire had lost yesterday and they were really up for it and definitely putted better than us. But this afternoon it came down to ball striking and, from what I’ve seen, our players kept it straight,” said Young.
He added his point to those already scored by Tom Robson (3/2) and Ryan Harmer (5/4) and set the stage for McKenzie to clinch the team’s win when he finished 2/1.
“I knew coming down the 17th that this was the clincher and it’s a nice feeling to do it,” said McKenzie, who has won all four of his games so far (pictured top, copyright Leaderboard Photography)
His match against Max Martin was extremely close over the front nine and he was four-under when he reached the turn all square, before winning 10, 11 and 12 to forge ahead. George Saunders (2/1) added another point while Jordan Sundborg squeezed a half out of his game with Gareth Jenkins.
Yorkshire’s plan for the afternoon was simple. Team captain Darryl Berryl told his players: “I want the first point on the board to be a Yorkshire point to level the game.”
Whiteoak duly obliged. He was bogey free and three-under par when he won 6/5. “We needed a couple of players to get some early points and hopefully it would seep back to the bottom end,” he said.
Steve Robins quickly supported him. He was also bogey free and was four-under when he claimed the team’s second point 4/3 and maintained his own 100% winning record.
Kealan Lowe, the Yorkshire order of merit winner, showed tremendous class as he closed out his 4/2 win. First he played a remarkable shot out of thick rough behind the 15th green which finished inches from the hole; then he slotted a tricky, downhill birdie putt on the 16th for the win.
Bailey Gill, who became the Yorkshire matchplay champion last week, sealed the team’s victory when he won 3/1. He had been three down after six but turned the tables with three consecutive birdies from the 10th which got him to one up and, as the match moved towards the closing holes, he played crucial shots close to the pin.
English champion Dan Brown holed a 25-ft birdie putt on 17 to go down the last one up – but his opponent Rob McGregor, replied by holing a 35-footer on the 18th for his own birdie and a halved result.
Darryl Berry commented on his team’s performance: “It was all about getting the momentum to feed the team and the guys have done what they needed to.”
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