FORMAT: Six-team round-robin playing 2 foursomes & 3 singles
The stars certainly aligned for the Cheshire Women’s team this week as they qualified for the national finals for the first time in 20 years.
The England Golf Northern Counties qualifier has been dominated by the Roses counties but Cheshire made home advantage count at Heswall… but only just.
Going into the final round of matches yesterday, the only scenario in which the hosts could finish top was for them to beat Durham 5-0 and Yorkshire see off overnight leaders Lancashire 3-2. A bigger victory for the White Rose county would have seen them retain the title and a half or win for the Red Rose outfit would have meant they qualified.
But fate conspired for Cheshire perfectly with Rian Moores (Sandiway) claiming the critical fifth point against Durham in superb fashion. Her tie against Emily Baxter was A/S with two to play but the home player birdied the final two holes to win it for the hosts.
Cheshire’s success was particularly pleasing for the management team who meticulously planned their bid for glory. Coach Mark Pilling, who is based at Prestbury, moved all the coaching sessions to Heswall and even made his own stroke savers for the 12-strong squad.
Team captain Jackie Hesketh said: “I am buzzing! I said to the girls on Tuesday night all we can do is beat Durham 5-0 and hope Yorkshire do us a favour and I was so shell shocked.
“As we were checking I just daren’t believe it but we had a great team led by a brilliant captain. Lucy (Jamieson) was like a woman on a mission and the way Rian played those final two holes, Rory McIlroy would have been proud.”
On the par five 17th, Moores hit two nerveless shots into the heart of the green and two putted to go one up and then, with a large crowd gathered around the 18th, teed off with an iron, finding the fairway before sending her approach shot to three feet to close things out.
County champion Jamieson was an inspiration all week. She won 5&3 three times and 5&4 twice.
There was also what turned out to be a critical moment on Tuesday morning when Cheshire faced a formidable-looking Northumberland outfit, who had won their opening two matches.
Winning Cheshire squad:
• Caroline Berry (Bromborough)
• Annabel Collis (Delamere Forest)
• Freya Jackson (Lymm)
• Lucy Jamieson (Heswall, Capt)
• Lauren Jones (Mellor & Townscliffe)
• Emily McBurney (Royal Liverpool)
• Rian Moores (Sandiway)
• Dani Shap (Caldy)
• Sara Spencer (Heswall)
• Isabella Taylor Stokes (Styal)
• Victoria Turner (Delamere Forest)
• Imogen Williamson (Delamere Forest)
But the home side got themselves back into contention with a remarkable 5-0 victory which included a 2&1 win for Cheshire’s highest handicapper Victoria Turner (Delamere Forest) over the new British Amateur champion Jess Baker. There was also a stand-out effort from 15-year-old Imogen Williamson (Delamere Forest), who saw off England Girls star Rachel Gourley on the 18th.
Buoyed by that success, Cheshire drew with Yorkshire to stay in it and then, on Wednesday morning against Durham, Emily McBurney (Royal Liverpool) combined with Lauren Jones (Mellor & Townscliffe) to win 4&3, Isabella Taylor Stokes (Styal) and Annabel Collis (Delamere Forest) also did their bit by the same score.
In the singles Jamieson was once again unstoppable against Jess Hall (Bishop Auckland), Williamson triumphed 6&5 and then Moores came good down the stretch.
The Cheshire captain added: “We set up a programme to win it. Lancashire and Yorkshire are so strong so we thought, being at home, it was our best chance.
“Mark Pilling has been so committed to the team and trained the girls on the course so we had a lot going for us but you still have to put the ball in the hole.”
This year’s County Finals take place at Stoneham (September 16th) where Cheshire will take on Buckinghamshire, Nottinghamshire, Essex, Kent and the winners of the South West final, which takes place at Clevedon GC next week (July 4-6).