Yorkshire won the English Men’s County Championship for the 21st time, beating Hampshire 5.5-3.5 in a final day showdown at Sandwell Park in Staffordshire.
Although Yorkshire dominate the list of past winners, this is their first victory for nine years and the victory was sweet, especially after the boys’ and women’s teams narrowly lost their county finals.
Team captain Darryl Berry, who has previously played in two winning sides, said: “This is great for the team and for all our supporters. It’s been a brilliant team effort, the lads have been great.”
Yorkshire set up their win with a great foursomes performances, winning 2.5 of the three available points. “That was massive,” said Berry, who sent his top players out in the singles with instructions to get their points as quickly as possible. Steve Robins and Kealan Lowe, playing in the first two games, duly obliged and both won 3/2.
Robins was bogey free and five-under when he finished, continuing his fine form of the championship. “I think I’ve had three bogeys in the three days,” he said. “I’ve played well this week and had six wins from six games, so I’m chuffed with that.” Yorkshire will also be pleased to hear that the 23-year-old plans to stay amateur next year.
Lowe, the Yorkshire order of merit winner, sank a 4ft putt to close out his match and ensure that the team would win the title. His win gave them a total of 4.5 points and, even if they lost the remaining games, they would draw the match and become champions on a countback of points won.
“It’s special to get the winning point, really good,” said Lowe, who won all his singles this week. He was playing at Men’s County Finals for the first time, having previously been in the boys’ version and he said: “This is a bit bigger and scarier with more people watching! But it’s been good.”
But all of the team – and their many supporters – wanted an outright win and they were determined to get at least one more point. However, Hampshire got the momentum in the next three games with Billy McKenzie fighting back from three down at the turn to beat Bailey Gill 2 up.
He was followed by Ryan Harmer who, having been up most of the way against Yorkshire champion Ben Hutchinson, was pulled back to all square with two to play but managed to win one up.
Then, English champion Dan Brown was beaten 3/2 by Hampshire’s Mark Burgess and Yorkshire’s hopes of that extra point were pinned on the close match between Will Whiteoak and Hampshire captain Martin Young.
Whiteoak held a one hole advantage for most of the back nine, helped by holing a monster putt for a half on 14. He held on to that slender lead, holing a good 10-footer on the last to finish 1up.
“We wanted to win outright and that’s why I put Will at the back,” said Berry. “He’s a pressure man and he brings it home every time.”
The result meant disappointment for Hampshire who have now come away empty-handed from seven County Finals since 2002. Team captain Martin Young said: “I’m disappointed now, but we’re getting closer and I’m proud of what the team has done and we’ve got four young lads who have never played at this level before.”
The play-off for third place was won by Warwickshire who beat Cornwall 5.5-3.5. It’s the first time they’ve finished above fourth in their last five visits to County Finals and team captain Stuart Bloxham said: “Hopefully this will be good momentum to take us forward and we’ll get back to County Finals next year, when the qualifier is on home ground.
“Today we played some great golf, we had a very good foursomes (winning 2.5-0.5) and we had some fantastic performances from the players in the singles. It was a hard fought and a great win, especially after the losses of the previous two days.
Click here for full scores
Caption: The winning Yorkshire team (image copyright Leaderboard Photography).