Gourley and Woad claim season opener in emphatic fashion
OPENS: Friday, March 11th
FORMAT: 7-round foursome matchplay
Two of England’s leading prospects combined to devastating effect today as they won the illustrious Sunningdale Foursomes in brilliant style.
Lottie Woad (Farnham) and Rachel Gourley (Arcot Hall), playing in the traditional season opener for the first time, beat South West-based professionals Jimmy Ruth (China Fleet) and Paul Hendriksen (Ivy Bridge) 6&5 in the final. They are the first all-female pair to have won it since 1997.
“We are both very happy,” said 18-year-old Woad. “Looking at the names who have won it before we are in good company. This year there were loads of great pairs and obviously we are very happy to come out on top. We had some great matches.”
It was the seventh victory in four days for the only all-female pairing and the beaten finalists, whose previous best in the competition was a quarter-final spot, were full of praise for the new champions.
“We played pretty good,” said Ruth. “But they are two great players and I don’t think Rahm and McIllroy would have beaten them today.”
The pro pair, giving away ten shots to the England Girls internationals, were eventually overwhelmed by par golf with conditions deteriorating at the legendary Surrey venue. By the closing holes grounds staff were required to clear standing water off the greens before the players putted.
However 17-year-old Gourley had no problems on the 13th, rolling in a birdie putt from ten feet to seal the victory. Woad, who last week was called up into the Curtis Cup squad, defied the heavy rain to hit a stunning iron in close on the long par three.
It was also the fourth hole they won in a row after their opponents had battled hard on the front nine to stay in it.
The amateurs won the first two holes in fine style. They were getting a shot on both with Woad’s superb short game coming to the fore. She chipped close at the first and put a tricky-looking short one to two and a half feet on the next.
An excellent pitch from Hendriksen at the third set up a chance to halve the deficit and his partner made no mistake from five feet.
It was all square soon after. Hendriksen hit an excellent approach into eight feet while Gourley missed the green and she couldn’t hole the par putt from six feet after her partner chipped on.
The teenagers got shots on the next three holes and took full advantage to get back to three up after seven.
At the fifth Gourley was faced with 144 yards in, the exact same yardage she had in the morning semi-final with Ed Richardson (Redlibbets) and Tom Sherreard (Kingshill), which was won 2&1.
And again she fired it in close. Woad was not required to putt as Ruth skirted the edge of the cup with his birdie putt and the hole was conceded.
At the next both were faced with 23-footers for birde and this time Hendriksen couldn’t find the target while his opponents two putted to go two up.
The pro duo needed birdies and again, at the seventh, just missed out while Woad cosied her birdie putt up to within a foot and the hole was conceded.
Relief for the South West pair came at the par three eighth as Gourley missed well right and Woad could not find the putting surface with her second.
The short par four ninth also looked like a good opportunity for Hendriksen and Ruth, especially when Gourley went slightly long with her second but Woad once again chipped stone dead while the Ivy Bridge player shaved the hole on the left with his putt.
There would be another lip out for Hendriksen at the tenth after both pairs faced long birdie putts up the hill. Woad missed her par putt coming back and the leaders were relieved to see their opponents also three putting from distance.
The England internationals did not get a shot at the 11th but didn’t need it as Ruth found trouble off the tee and Hend could not sink the par putt.
The 12th is never easy and both pairs failed to find the raised green on the long par four in two although Ruth did have a decent chance to halve the hole but his par putt stayed up.
And the competition concluded just a few minutes later as Woad fired a superb approach down the hill while Ruth put his tee shot to 16 feet. With groundstaff clearing a path to the hole, Hendriksen left his birdie attempt just a foot short but Gourley’s response had perfect pace and line.