Yorkshire are the Champions of England
The day had arrived, 12 months of hard work coming together, Yorkshire were going to become English County Champions again. We had told the players at our first Coaching session back in September 2022 “We are here to work hard with three aims, 1) for you to improve and 2) to be Northern Counties Champions and most importantly 3) Yorkshire become the County Champions of England, where we should be”
Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club- in Deepest Darkest Lancashire – was going to be the chosen battlefield. Unfortunately, they were only allowing one practice round (Thursday) so we planned to play at Hesketh and then go to S&A after 4pm when we were allowed to use the short game area and walk the course.
Storm Agnes arrived so Hesketh was off, luckily due to our forward planning we hadn’t booked a Premier Inn but a hotel which had its own short game course, perfect for the 2nd shot yardages we would need during the week. Work begins. After a good practice session, we headed to S&A to get some chipping and bunker game practice and walk the course. Problem, S&A had decided to close the short game area for Health and Safety reasons, now even after 50 odd years of playing Championship golf this was new a one on me! We are now definitely in Lancashire. You live and learn, where will it end. We walk the course and make our plans, first day Foursomes partnerships selected. Time for sleep.
6.30am Breakfast we are off, I won’t take you through the first 2 days but just to say the plan was to get at least a point in the foursomes which would allow us to win with our better singles strength, foursomes are notoriously difficult to predict with only 3 games.
The first two days produced wins against Kent and Lincolnshire, and we sat on top of the table leaving us in a position where we needed to halve our final game against Gloucestershire to become Champions of England (there was another way to win – Lincolnshire to beat Kent and we only need 3 points to win on goal difference, forget that calculation, won’t be needed.)
Final morning, after 6 holes, game scores 1) 1down 2) 3 down and 3) 3 down, just need that point, come on!
The third game (Jake Sowden and Max Berrisford) lose 3&2, game 1 (Charlie Daughtrey and Tom Osborne) are playing the last all square (NOT tied). Gloucestershire find the fairway bunker, 130 yards short of the green, with an iron. Tom hits driver, I find it in the left rough, up in the mounds, the lie is not bad but the ball is going to be well below Charlie’s feet. Charlie walks towards me, not happy, “You explain to me Kev why he’s hit driver there, he’s thick” “Come on Charlie you can do this” are my words.
Gloucestershire play a great bunker shot 12 feet away, Charlie gets it inside their ball, fantastic shot from that stance. Gloucestershire miss, come on Tom get our point, it slides by to the right. A half (NOT a tie).
The second game (George Ash and Ben Brown) are 1 down playing the last. Gloucestershire have hit iron on the fairway and their approach to 15 feet. Ben has hit driver into…. the left rough, the lies ok and, an uncomplaining, George plays a lovely pitch 10 feet away directly behind the flag. Gloucestershire miss, Ben to putt- probably the best putter in our team and he had holed a great putt on the 18th last night. Ben stands over it, I am confident, he strikes it, it’s never getting there and finishes a foot short. That is the worst putt I have ever seen Ben hit and I have watched him hit putts since he was 5 years old!! We don’t have our foursomes point.
Sat having lunch, Gareth and David summon me outside – never a good sign. They are working out who to leave out from the afternoon singles, we all agree that Max is out on his feet, he had a long week at Portrush the previous week in gale force winds and is spent. An example of how team golf changes during a tournament, we need 4 points to win in our last day singles and we are leaving out the player who we see as our strong man. After Captaining golf teams since I was 24, team championship golf still amazes me.
We set off with Charlie and he duly misses the first green, 204 yards par 3, for the first time this week. Ben is game 2 and he and his partner find green side bunkers, Ben’s opponent holes out from the bunker, not the start we were looking for. The next four players, George Ash, Tom Osborne, Lucas Martin and Jake Sowden all win the first, come on Yorkshire.
Through 9 holes, Charlie is 1up, Ben is All square, George 1up, Tom 3up, Lucas 3up and Jake 2down. Our yearlong dream is near reality.
Through 15 holes, Charlie is 1down, Ben is 3 down, George is 2 up,
Tom has won 4&3, playing fantastic powerful golf, Lucas is all square!!!!, Jake is 3 down. Four points is not looking good. What is the Lincolnshire score? they are winning – what was that bloody calculation??? We need two and a half points from the singles, we can still do this!!
Lincolnshire win their match. Two and a half points it is.
Charlie gets back to all square after 16, Ben loses but George wins, Jake is 2 down with 2 to play, we need half a point.
Charlie loses 17 and 18 but was fantastic all week both in his play and his attitude.
Jake loses 2&1 but Lucas wins the 16th to go 1up. he has to get a half. It’s all on Lucas, if he can get a half on 17 or 18, we win.
Both players hit the fairway on the 499 yard 17th which is playing into the wind, Gloucestershire to play first and find the greenside bunker. Lucas just misses the green on the left, sensibly playing away from the ditch and out of bounds on the right. It is Lucas to play first, in normal times a relatively easy chip. He has walked all around the green, checked his landing spot and is ready to play. He strikes the ball, oh no! that’s low! he’s completely thinned it! The ball careers across the green but fortunately catches a bank some ten yards left off the flag, the bank kills the pace and the ball slowly runs back on to the edge of the green some 30 feet from the flag.
The Gloucestershire player steps into the bunker and plays a very good splash shot to 4 feet.
Lucas misses, I start my run up the 18th to get on THAT left hand hill again. What I would give for on those TIE (not all square) games now!!
Running backwards I see the Gloucestershire player lining up his putt, he makes contact. I can still see the ball, he’s missed!! We’ve done it. It’s been a long time since that first practice session and our mission statement but we have done it.
The players have undoubtedly improved
We are Northern League Champions
Yorkshire are Champions of ENGLAND!!
Where’s that pint of Guinness
BBC Sounds – “Loyalty and Trust is Massive” – David Appleyard – Yorkshire Captain