Yorkshire beat Gloucestershire 5-4 today to win the English Women’s County Championship in a nailbiting finale which was only decided by the last putt on the last green.
Nicola Slater rolled her ball from behind the green to within six inches of the cup to confirm her 1up win and Yorkshire’s victory – and the celebrations began as her team-mates bowled her over.
Olivia Winning cradled the trophy and remarked: “This is the only one I’ve ever wanted, I’d give up all my other wins for this.” That’s some statement from an international who has twice won the Scottish open title and helped England to European gold.
This was the second year in a row that the two teams had met in the title decider. Last season Gloucestershire came out on top, claiming their first win in the championship. This time it was Yorkshire’s year and their 13th victory.
Going in to today’s play Gloucestershire had a slight advantage, having won all four of their earlier matches this week. Yorkshire had scored three wins before being wrong-footed by Buckinghamshire yesterday and held to a half.
This morning, as the foursomes unfolded, the advantage stayed with Gloucestershire who went in to lunch 2-1 up – helped by a hole in one on the 12th from Caley McGinty.
As the singles got underway it was Gloucestershire again who forged ahead over the opening holes, but Yorkshire coach Steve Robinson was undismayed, remarking: “You’ve got to be able to take a punch.”
He had told his team to be sure they didn’t go home without giving it their all – and he was soon rewarded. Hannah Holden, who clearly remembered the disappointment of last year’s defeat and was determined not to re-live it, scored the first point. She was five under par when she won 6/5, having birdied 4, 5, 7, 10 and 12.
Winning, who had been two down after six, holed a monster putt on the 8th, gathered a crop of birdies, knocked her wedge to 2ft on the 15th and won 4/3.
Then it was blow for blow. Gloucestershire’s Alex Giles struck back with her 2/1 win, putting the two teams back on level terms. Almost immediately Megan Lockett also won 2/1 and put Yorkshire ahead again. Caley McGinty held on tight for Gloucestershire, defeating Mia Eales-Smith 2 up in a game which featured two players whose combined age was just 30!
The teams had four points apiece and everything hinged on the final game between Yorkshire’s Nicola Slater and Gloucestershire’s Alex Saunders. They were all square with three holes to play but crucially Slater won the par three 16th after Saunders’ putt lipped out.
They halved the 17th in birdie and then, adrenalin pumping, both went through the back of the 18th in two. Saunders was further away but fashioned an exquisite chip to within six inches of the hole. Slater’s downhill putt from the fringe was also perfectly judged and rolled equally close. “It was just thinking don’t hit it long,” she remarked afterwards.
Yorkshire captain Fran Dickson paid tribute to her players: “I just think they are amazing young people with great talent.”
Gloucestershire’s Andra Knight had similar words for her players. “It was a fabulous match, played in a great spirit. I am so proud of them all, they were brilliant.”
In the day’s other matches the hosts, Suffolk defeated Nottinghamshire 6-3 to take third place in the championship, on their first appearance at County Finals in 22 years. Captain Vanessa Bell commented: “I am thrilled to bits. After we lost on Monday but won on Tuesday I was after third place and we got it. I am just so proud of the team for fighting and keeping going, it’s been fabulous.”
Hampshire beat Buckinghamshire 5.5-3.5 for their second win of the week. It put them in fourth place, ahead of Nottinghamshire and Buckinghamshire.
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