YORKSHIRE got their hands on the silverware at the Senior Men’s County Finals – helped by a moment of golfing gold from Andy King.
After three days of top quality play at the pristine Effingham GC in Surrey, the outcome of the 2019 event came down to the final two games on the course in a direct shootout between Yorkshire and Sussex.
Sussex knew that a draw in the match would allow them to become champions.
Yorkshire needed a win to top the leaderboard and with two games left to be completed the result hung in the balance.
Then came the moment of magic from King on the 17th hole in his duel with Colin Jones.
With Jones one up, King was faced with an 80-yard third shot into the tricky par five.
A large crowd gathered around the green as the veteran played a brilliant pitch and run and found the bottom of the cup for a miracle eagle.
When he then halved the 18th with Jones, the half point in his game was good enough to give Yorkshire the title for the second time in three years.
After playing a key role in the 5-4 win to end the week undefeated in his games, a jubilant King said: “It’s hard to put this into words – what a brilliant effort from a great team.”
“The chip on 17 was unbelievable. I hadn’t hit a very good five-wood and left myself 80 yards to go. I played a running shot with a nine iron and it just kept going and going and then dropped,” added King (pictured below).
“My emotion? Well, I just reached for my driver as I knew I still had a lot of work to do at 18.
“I knew my putt on 18 was crucial in terms of the match, but I didn’t know it was to secure the half point to win the title.
“I won’t lie it was hard to draw the putter back and even harder because I hover the putter behind the ball. But when it dropped and the team started cheering I knew we’d done it.”
While there was understandable joy in the Yorkshire ranks, it was hard not to feel sorry for a Sussex side that has now finished runners up for each of the last three years.
Yorkshire edged the morning foursomes 2-1, but after wins for Martin Galway and Steve Graham in the afternoon singles, Sussex they needed one and a half more points from the final two games to nail the victory.
But although Jones and Doug Park played valiantly to half both their games it wasn’t enough to rain on the Yorkshire parade.
Sussex captain Rick Thomas must feel as if his team are cursed and the look on his face at the conclusion of three fabulous days told a story.
“I’ve been here twice before and it doesn’t get any easier now we’ve lost out for a third time – and by just half a point, “said Thomas.
“I could have asked for any more from my team – they were terrific and it all boils down a single putt here and there.
“Congratulation to Yorkshire who played with real grit and determination.”
At one stage in the morning foursomes matches it looked as if Yorkshire might coast to a win rather than have to rely on late drama.
On the front nine, Yorkshire were quickly up in all three games, but there were twists and turns to follow.
In the first game, Sussex duo Graham and Martin King were trailing thanks in part to a brilliant eagle on the 8th hole from England internationals Richard Norton and Rich Jones.
But with the match all square heading down the 17th hole, Irish international Graham’s approach to the par five set up an eagle chance for his partner which was duly knocked in.
Yorkshire found trouble off the tee on 18 and could only make a bogey. With their opponents safely on in two a concession followed and the point went to Sussex.
The overall morning honours, however, went to Yorkshire.
Stephen Mason maintained his fine form to make four wins in four outings by partnering Alan Wright to a 3&1 win against Malcolm Cawte and Mark Logan.
There was final hole drama in the match between Sussex pair Jones and Park and Yorkshire’s King and Ian Clarke.
The Yorkshire duo were in command coming into the back nine, but Sussex fought to take the match down the last. With Yorkshire bogeying the hole, Park had a six-footer for par to earn a half point. However, his well-struck putt (pictured below) caught the lip of the hole and stayed above ground.
In the end it was small margins such as this over the three days which decided the destiny of the trophy.
The other match on the final day of the four-team round robin series involved Lincolnshire and Dorset playing for pride after losing on days one and two.
Eventually it was Dorset who came out on top with a 5.5-3.5 win to repeat their third placed finish from last year.
However, the glory of the week belonged to Yorkshire and skipper John Grimbleby. He said: “This was a brilliant advert for senior men’s golf and I’m so proud of my team – heroes one and all.”
Photograph credit: Leaderboard