County Match Week 2021
County Match Week Report – Stoke by Nayland June 2021
Bedfordshire arrived at Stoke by Nayland on 17th June with some weather worries on the forecast but determined to do themselves justice with an enthusiastic 6 players under 24 years of age. Laura Collin and Steph Scott added experience and Sue Caley arrived with all the enthusiasm of a teenager. Jess Sporle was making her debut at 18 and Chanel Fontaine Geary seemed like an old hand but still at 16 the youngest member of our squad. Annabel Pitts as champion is now a regular fixture along with Georgia who achieved her county colours during the weekend. Caitlin Thomas, our USA export, and Luca Thompson with the lowest handicap made up the playing squad. The support squad comprised our President Claudine Tate, Vice President Margaret Seabrook and Vice Captain, the effervescent Gill Westgate. As Captain for the week, I was very proud to be leading these ladies out.
Emily Perry and Paul Holland met us at 11am for the practice round and showed the girls how to make a wind chart to assist them with the breeze, which can be quite a challenge at this Essex course. They then accompanied the girls on the round with plenty of advice on putting, flag positions and general course management. This was well received and provided huge amounts of information for the players to process. After supper in the evening, the first morning’s team list was announced and the team were ready for an early night. This year’s format required a team of 7 for each match with 2 foursomes and 3 singles played over 18 holes against each of the other 5 counties.
First day tee off was from 10th hole which was where our practice round had started – a tricky par 4 with a second shot over a wide expanse of water. The team quickly got into their stride and although we lost the morning match against Norfolk it was very close, and the atmosphere in the team room was buoyant. On Friday afternoon the rain set in and after 9 holes against Suffolk, play was suspended for the day. Going to bed that night, there was plenty to be positive about. All 9 players had been in action with Jess and Steph in the foursomes in the morning and Laura and Sue in the afternoon and Luca and Caitlin replacing Annabel and Georgia in foursomes in the afternoon. We have a squad of women who can easily move between singles and foursomes and we were forming some strong foursomes pairings despite the lack of preparation due to the pandemic.
Day 2 will go down as one of the longest days in living County Week memory. First we finished off the previous day’s match vs Suffolk with all players returning to the point where they had finished the afternoon before. Chanel quickly finished her match with 3 holes to spare to get the first point on the board, whilst Caitlin and Luca took a little longer to win on the 17th. The two singles of Annabel and Georgia met two very strong players from Suffolk, so it was down to the last match on 18 with Laura and Sue against the hugely experienced Lils James and her partner Georgia Parker. Leading by 1 going down the last hole, Laura put her tee shot onto the green and Sue left her with a 2 foot putt which Laura calmly held to take the deciding point for a 3:2 win. Well done team – onto the next match vs Hertfordshire.
We caught Hertfordshire smarting from the day before, as their first pair in foursomes had been disqualified for arriving late on the tee on the Friday afternoon. They were on a mission and although the team worked hard for each other and got a half point in the foursomes, and a hard fought half from Luca in the singles, the team of largely US college golf scholars were just too strong on the day and we lost 1:4. The third outing on the Saturday was against Essex and although initially the referee set the finishing time at 7pm, play in some matches went on ‘til past 7.30. . We put the young guns into the foursomes in an attempt to win both points there and give a chance for Laura to have her first singles match and Steph to give the singles a go, where she felt confident. The top foursomes were against a strong pair and although Luca and Caitlin fought hard, they eventually succumbed to their first ever loss in foursomes at county level. Georgia and Annabel in the second match were in a tight game and eventually lost on the last hole. We had started on the 6th tee in an attempt to get all matches finished, which made it tough to work out where you were on the course, but the girls battled on and in the singles especially Laura and Chanel took the battle to the opposition in a really positive way. With Laura winning with 3 holes to spare and Chanel on her last hole after literally running to the tee, it was left to Steph at the tail end. As 7pm approached and we thought that the match was delayed until the next morning, the referee changed his mind and Steph's opponent who had got to the car park to pack her clubs away, came back to win on the 17th and spoil Steph's day.
So as we got to the last morning, the feeling was that with only 1 win from 4 matches, there was room for another win to reflect how the team had performed during the previous 2 days. For our last match in the 2021 matches we gave the two teenagers a chance to get together and play foursomes together - Chanel and Jess came out winners and clearly thoroughly enjoyed themselves which is the most important aspect of development at this level. Annabel and Georgia got a much deserved point and for Georgia who was celebrating being presented with her colours the night before this was a fitting end to her county week. Meanwhile back in the singles it was looking tough for all 3 girls. Laura was in a very tight game and it looked like she was going to go down narrowly, but a calm finish whilst her opponent made mistakes on the last hole resulted in a deserved half. Luca was in a tight spot, being 5 down with 7 to play and so it looked like Caitlin would be required to bring home the deciding point or half. Caitlin was playing near flawless golf, after a double bogey start, 15 pars, 1 birdie and an eagle which had only brought her a half! Luca was fighting valiantly and her opponent was wilting ever so slightly. When her parents arrived Luca was 2 down with two to play but taking inspiration she finished with two birdies, holing over 35 feet of putts on the last two greens to take the half point that we needed to beat Cambs and Hunts. Caitlin's battling effort was not rewarded with any points but a terrific round of golf in the circumstances.
So to end the week we were 4th out of 6 teams and had so much to be positive about. A great team effort with some outstanding individual performances. Chanel lead the points with 3.5 points and Luca closely followed with 3 points and probably two of the standout performances of the week (A win against Amelia Williamson of Florida State University and a fighting half against Cambridgeshire and Hunts after being 5 down). Laura was on 2.5 points and it was great to have that experience back on the team and indeed all the players brought something to the team both on and off the course. After this year, Captain Claire will be aiming even higher in 2022, and with another year of experience there is no limit to what this group of players could achieve, especially with a few more knocking on the door.