South West region seals maiden success at Royal North Devon
Cornwall are the English County champions for the first time in their 113-year history. They achieved that milestone by beating Surrey 5½-3½ in the final series of matches at Royal North Devon.
If Surrey had turned the tables, then Yorkshire would have secured their 21st title. In the end, they had to settle for second spot despite a 5-4 win over wooden spoon recipients Warwickshire.
After a nail-biting afternoon, when Cornwall’s victory was in the balance, Rob MacGregor was the man of the hour, holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green against Mark Booker, which saw his side over the line.
“This seems like a dream,” said Cornwall captain Richard Simmons. “We have created a piece of history and it is the beginning of an era. This is incredible for Cornwall, a county with only 34 clubs.
“Not long ago, we didn’t have a team that could go out and do this. It was so fitting that Rob MacGregor holed the winning putt. He’s had a couple of difficult years but has come back into the team and the big man is an inspiration.”
Cornwall’s maiden victory means the title has been won by a south west county three times in the last four years, following Wiltshire’s back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012. Perhaps there was also a lucky omen, as Cornwall won their regional title over the same ground at Royal North Devon so they knew terrain well.
“We are familiar with this course,” added Simmons. “It was great to win here to get to the finals.”
Yorkshire skipper Daryl Berry, after seeing his side gain the win they needed, hung on to the hope that Surrey might do him a favour. But it wasn’t to be.
“We knew what we had to do and we did it,” he said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. I’m disappointed but my team battled well and we hung on to the hope that we might come out on top.”
Having dropped just half a point to Surrey in the foursomes, Cornwall needed a fast start in the singles and Conor Wilson and Harry Hall edged them towards the title in the top two games.
Wilson laid the foundations for his victory over Andy Devonport with three successive birdies from the seventh. He also won the tenth before completing a 5&3 win, but Hall had a battle on his hands before coming from behind to beat Oscar Granstrom-Livesey 3&1.
That meant Cornwall were on the verge of victory but even a tie with Surrey meant they could still be caught by Yorkshire on ‘games’ totals. So, where was the half going to come from?
David Corben and Kieran Lovelock added to Surrey’s tally - then entered MacGregor. The 6ft 7ins player was three-up at the turn against Mark Booker but lost three holes in a row. He came down the 18th still one-down but fired his approach to 15 feet and holed out for the half to the cheers of his teammates.
After edging the morning foursomes 2-1 against Warwickshire, Yorkshire knew what they had to do in the six singles but received an early set-back when Max Martin beat Joe Dean 5&4 in the top game.
However, the other games went to-and-fro, Dan Brown, Nick Marsh and William Whiteoak gaining points for Yorkshire, while Will Smith and Pat Ruff added to Martin’s victory for the Midlanders. In the end, though, it was Cornwall’s week.
© Photo supplied by Leaderboard Photography