Monday, September 14, 2015

Notts mark return with a ‘phenomenal’ win 
Nottinghamshire returned to the English Women’s County Finals after an absence of 15 years and made an instant impact – defeating Lancashire, the 10-times champions, on the first day. 
In the day’s other matches at Frilford Heath Golf Club, Sussex beat Gloucestershire 5½-3½; while Essex pulled off a last-gasp 5-4 win over Buckinghamshire, thanks to a 30ft putt on the last from Ashley Croft (image © Leaderboard Photography).
Nottinghamshire champion Rachel Boulton – who hadn’t even started playing golf the when the county last qualified - said after today’s game: “I am just absolutely buzzing!
“Lancashire have got three England players and we knew it was going to be tough – but to go out and win was phenomenal. It was a great team win.” 
Nottinghamshire laid the foundations of their success with two good wins in the foursomes. Boulton and Emma Newlove holed a string of putts to win 5/4, but Lauren Spray and Esme Hamilton had to hold on to the 18th for their point. 
In the afternoon, Lancashire’s internationals, Hollie Muse and Sophie Lamb, started a strong challenge with good singles wins. Beth Garton continued the fightback and her win – briefly – put the team ahead. 
But Nottinghamshire’s last three players – Emily Cheshire, Boulton and Spray – all had comfortable wins.
 “They were all absolutely wonderful,” said team captain Kathryn Horberry.
Sussex have returned to the County Finals after an absence of four years and also came straight back with a win. 
“Gloucestershire are a tough side and it was never going to be an easy match, so we were extremely pleased to get this result,” said Sussex captain Sue Todd.
The teams shared the morning points and Gloucestershire quickly moved ahead in the singles, thanks to England international Bethan Popel and Karen Sykes. 
But further down the order, the Sussex players were in charge. “I knew we had strength throughout our team and we had a very strong rearguard in Katherine Russell,” said Todd.
 Russell, who won 5 and 4, is a senior international and has won the British senior championship. 
Both Todd and county champion Chelsea Masters had praise for the team’s three rookies, who all won their singles. Jelina Fernando has played for Sussex before, but not at County Finals, while Penny Brown and Sophie Kennard are in the team for the first time this year, having come through the new order of merit system. 
The match between Essex and Buckinghamshire was a real roller-coaster, which ended in dramatic style when Ashley Croft, playing in the last game on the course, sank a 30-footer on the 18th to snatch the win for Essex. 
At lunchtime, Essex were the clear favourites, with 2½ points from the morning foursomes. But Buckinghamshire were far from beaten and, with only two matches left on the course the score was level. 
Essex edged ahead when Kelly Martin came back from two down to win her match on the last. Meanwhile, Buckinghamshire’s Lizi Sweetnam was one up playing the 18th - but Ashley Croft grabbed victory for the team when she holed a 30-footer to win the hole and halve her game. 
“It was absolutely dramatic,” said team captain Louella Hitchcock. Her team includes three ambassadors from the county’s Girls Golf Rocks campaign, which aims to inspire and encourage more girls to play golf: Ashley Croft, Holly Haslam and English U14 champion Lily Humphreys. 
Tomorrow Nottinghamshire play Buckinghamshire, Sussex play Lancashire and Essex play Gloucestershire. 

Click here for the championship webpage and full scores 

Lyndsey Hewison
Press Officer
England Golf
07825 752 193