Monday, September 24, 2012
It was a week of superlatives at East Devon Golf Club this week as the club hosted the English Women’s Golf County finals, writes Paul Willoughby.
Six counties qualified for the finals - Essex, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Gloucestershire and Surrey and they battled it out throughout the week with foursome matches in the mornings and singles in the afternoon.
The scoring was cumulative rather than knockout so a full day’s golf was played and seen each day, and what a pleasure it was.
The week had been in the planning for over a year after EWGA asked East Devon if they could hold their County Finals here. A team including the in-coming Captain & Ladies Captain 2012 from East Devon visited Thorndon Park in Essex who were hosting the 2011 matches so they could see what was involved. Since then the arrangements for the week have been fine tuned with Paul Newcombe the head greenkeeper and his staff making sure the course was at its best for this prestigious golfing week.
Thanks have to go to Stephen Phillips, the Club Captain, Shirley Pressey the Ladies Captain, Julian Reynolds the club’s Managing Secretary for all their organisation which led to such a successful week.
A special mention has to be made of Sally Stratton from the club’s ladies section, the EWGA Club delegate, who co-ordinated the whole event from an early stage. She has done a really excellent job which has been appreciated by everyone; the finals week would not have run so smoothly without her.
Thanks should also go to the England Women’s Golf officials for all their considerable help; The President - Sue Johnson, Championship Chairman - Margaret Gliddon, Championship Manager – Emma Lowe, Chief referee – Sue Rawles and the other referees, Sonia Harvey and Carol Newton, all of whom were a pleasure to work with.
Each team consisted of six players chosen each day from a maximum squad of 10 and they were supported by their caddies and team followers.
East Devon Golf Club provided volunteers for starters, ball spotting, manning the refreshment tent on the 10th tee, holding up the Quiet Please notices when the players were about to take their shots, holding Stop and Go flags at appropriate places on the course to prevent accidents. Caddies were provided for the Surrey team. Trevor Underwood, the club professional provided 2,500 practice balls, all of which had to be collected at the ends of the practice sessions by the Budleigh volunteers! The practice area and ball collection was supervised superbly by Mike Sydenham. The teams had found their accommodation but the club provided hostesses to look after them throughout the week; their help was much appreciated by all the teams.
The club’s catering staff coped admirably with lunches for all of the teams and volunteers plus evening meals for at least two teams, supporters, spectators and the Championship Committee every day.
The club also hosted the finals of the Australian Spoons competition; this is a stableford foursomes competition contested by players with handicaps of 21 and over.
The finalists who each represented one of England Golf’s women’s regions, had come through club and regional qualifying rounds and the winners were Jean Halligan and Janet Ions, the first partnership to win from Cheshire.
Sheelah Ayliffe and Jill MacLeod from Bovey Tracey Golf club came second.
The weather was good all week and the golf was superb; balls were hit colossal distances which most of us could only gawp at. Most of the girls were in their teens, indeed the youngest, Sammy Fuller of Surrey was aged 13.
Sammy is a past winner of the English Under-13 championship and a runner up this year. Eloise Healey from Lancashire celebrated her 15th birthday during the week. One lovely statistic – the age of three of the girls in a foursome team when added together was still less than the fourth member of the team who, herself, was only in her 40’s! There were two Holes in One; Kelly Martin from Essex hit a superb 5 iron on the fiendishly difficult three tiered 10th green and Emily Slater, aged 15, from Lincolnshire scored hers on the 4th.
Essex were in the lead at the start of the final day with 3 ½ points from four matches – a win or a half against their final opponents, Lancashire, would mean victory, but a loss would force a countback, and if Gloucester beat their opponents, Surrey, they would also be involved in the reckoning. Lancashire came out with guns blazing and won all three morning foursomes but Essex rallied in the singles and although they didn’t win, the margin of 5 ½ - 3 ½ was just in their favour. Both teams had 3 ½ points from the week’s five matches and when it came to the countback of game points, including halved games, Essex had amassed 26 ½ points while Lancashire had 26. A very close finish.
It was a wonderful week for the spectators and there was an excited buzz around the course and the clubhouse which may not be equalled for some time. Congratulations and thanks to all those involved for making the event so successful.