Durham finish second in Senior Men’s County Finals
Durham’s senior men’s team came up agonisingly short in their bid to win the English Senior Men’s County Finals for the first time.
Durham – represented by John Kirkpatrick, Anth Black, Stuart Brown, Ian Hendry, Bryan Ross, Brian Nelson and Nicholas Mansell – finished second in the round-robin format as Surrey lifted the trophy at Thorpeness Golf Club.
Durham’s Anth Black was the only player to go unbeaten in all six matches played at the tournament, as he won five from six for his side, who finished second after a 5.5-3.5 final-day win over Staffordshire.
That win followed their emphatic 8-1 win over Cornwall on day two, but a narrow 5-4 loss on the opening day to Surrey proved too high an obstacle to overcome as Surrey lifted the trophy with five match points to Durham’s four.
Durham captain Mark Thorpe congratulated Surrey on their deserved win, adding: “As team captain, I’m super proud of my guys – they gave it everything.”
Mark, who assembled and led a squad of players that bonded brilliantly to win the Northern Counties title for the first time on the Isle of Man earlier this season, added: “When I think about it, the guys did really well. It was a great week, with great golf played under real pressure on a great course for matchplay. Hopefully we can qualify again.
“I think things can only get better. We’ll have players like John Kennedy and Howard Walton hopefully available to us next year, so we will be even stronger. This was my last tournament as captain as Andrew Stewart takes over. He’s been a great help and support to me over the last year and I’m sure he will do a great job.”
Day three Morning Foursomes: Durham 1.5–1.5 Staffordshire
John Kirkpatrick and Anth Black (Durham) were the only pairing to win all three of their matches at the event, as they defeated Terry Bray and Dave Westwood. On the ninth, Anth rolled in a 30ft putt, which Terry followed up with from 20ft to halve the hole in birdies. John stiffed a chip over a bunker to win the 10th when they looked out of the hole, before driving pin-high on the 11th to set up another birdie as they went 3up. The Staffordshire pairing fought back to take it down the last, including a birdie on 17, but John struck a superb four-iron from 200 yards to set up an easy two-putt to win 1up.
Mike Deeley and Rob Maxfield (Staffs) ended Bryan Ross and Brian Nelson’s unbeaten run in a remarkable game. Durham won the first two holes before losing an astonishing eight straight holes to be 6dn after 10. The first halved hole came on the 11th before the pendulum swung again, with the Durham pair managing to win five consecutive holes from 12-16, including a magnificent approach from Bryan to 4ft on 15. Pars on 17 meant it would go down the last and unfortunately for the Durham pair, they got into trouble off the tee before hitting out the back of the green and out of bounds to concede the hole, as Staffordshire won a remarkable contest 2up.
Stuart Brown and Nicholas Mansell (Durham) were 3up versus Andy Guy and Duncan Stott before the Staffordshire duo won three out of four holes to draw level. Brown slotted a 15ft putt to halve the 10th before Duncan coolly rolled in a slippery eight-footer down the hill to win the 16th and level the match. The Staffordshire pair recovered from out the trees for par to halve 17 with Andy’s 12ft putt, before pars apiece at the end saw them share the spoils.
Afternoon Singles: Durham 4–2 Staffordshire
John Kirkpatrick (Durham) completed a fantastic day personally as he swarmed to a 6&5 win over Terry Bray. Birdies on five, eight, nine and 10 saw him shoot three under-par through 13 holes to make it four wins from the five matches he featured in.
Dave Westwood (Staffs) and Tony Tomlin both got up-and-down for good birdies on the 9th before Tony knocked one to 4ft on the 10th. Dave then rolled in a 10-footer for birdie on 12 before he hit one to 7ft on 14 to stretch ahead, eventually winning 3&2 thanks to a chip-in birdie on the 16th.
Rob Maxfield (Staffs) chipped in on the sixth before knocking in a 20ft putt for birdie on 12. Bryan Nelson responded with a birdie on 13 but Rob sealed the deal by knocking it to 6ft on 17 for a 3&1 win.
Stuart Brown (Durham) was 3dn to Dean Porter through seven, with the latter sticking one to 2ft on the seventh. But Stuart battled back as he put one to 2ft on 11 and despite a penalty drop on 15, he sunk a 40ft putt for par to win the hole and go ahead. On 17 he made a birdie putt to go ahead and held on for the 1up win down the last.
Anth Black (Durham) made it six matches unbeaten as he saw off Andy Guy 3&2. Andy chipped in for birdie on the 10th and also nailed a 20ft putt on 13, but it was Anth who showed consistency throughout, including a stunning recovery on the 15th as he hit a three-wood under a tree to 10 ft and won the hole.
Mike Deeley (Staffs) and Ian Hendry levelled the first seven holes before Mike was 2up through nine, thanks to a 20ft putt on the eighth and a 25-footer on the ninth. Ian responded with a 20-footer of his own downhill on the 14th for a vital half, and after getting free relief from an animal hole on 18, the Durham man hit a four-iron 220 yards to win the hole, and match, with par – the first time he’d led in the game.
Day 2 Morning Foursomes: Cornwall 0–3 Durham
John Kirkpatrick and Anth Black (Durham) battled Ian Veale and Simon Knowles, going back and forth on the front nine. On the 14th, Anth hit to 5ft as the Cornwall duo looked out of the hole against the face of a bunker. However, Simon produced a sublime shot which almost went in, with John missing his putt and losing the hole. The Durham duo responded brilliantly though by winning the next three holes to confirm a 3&1 win.
Brian Nelson and Bryan Ross (Durham) were 1dn against Mark Blaber and Guy Norris after six, but Bryan chipped in for birdie on the seventh and Brian rolled in a 20ft birdie putt on 10, as the Durham pairing won five consecutive holes. Bryan knocked one to 4ft on the 16th to see out a convincing 4&2 win.
Stuart Brown and Nicholas Mansell (Durham) enjoyed a tight 10 holes with Andy Rowe and Gary Stone, including a key 15-footer for Stuart to halve the fifth. The turning point seemed to come on the 11th where both teams hit bunkers but Durham managed to get out and win the hole, winning four of the last five holes to seal a 5&3 win.
Afternoon Singles: Cornwall 1–5 Durham
Simon Knowles (Cornwall) and Brian Nelson (Durham) played out a tight contest as no player went more than 1up throughout. Simon drove the ball well and hit close on the seventh but couldn’t capitalise before a 20ft putt downhill from Brian secured a huge half on 14. After winning the 16th the Durham man then stuck his approach on 18 to 5ft to secure a 1up victory.
Richard Jones (Cornwall) and Ian Hendry started with birdies, as Richard hit to 8ins from 84 yards and Ian holed a 15-footer. Richard went 3up through five as the pair halved the 11th in birdies, with Ian recovering brilliantly from a wayward tee shot and hitting to 6ft, and Jones rolling in an 18ft putt. A cracking bunker shot from 148 yards to 12ft saw Richard pick up an important half on 12 before a four-iron from 205 yards to 10 ft won him the 13th on the way to a 3&2 win.
Anth Black (Durham) birdied the sixth to go 3up against Ian Veale but the latter almost aced the seventh and claimed two consecutive holes as he went on to win the eighth. Anth stuck a wedge to 6ft to birdie 11 and then rolled in a 30ft putt on 12 for a half, but Ian won three holes on the spin to draw level again thanks to a wedge into the par-five 14th. All-square going down the last, both made mistakes but Anth’s bogey was enough to earn him a tense 1up win.
Tony Tomlin (Durham) was on fire with his three-wood throughout but had to come back from being 2dn to Guy Norris after five. He won 15 and was ahead for the first time in the match when he managed to get up and down to win 16. He made it three holes in a row to win the contest as he slammed his three-wood to the 17th green for a two-putt birdie, winning 2&1.
Stuart Brown (Durham) won the first hole after hitting to 3ft against Mark Blaber and stuck another to a few inches on the third for another birdie. Mark replied with stunning approach shots into four and six, both to 3ft for birdies, but Stuart managed to go 4up after birdieing the ninth and went on to triumph 6&4.
Gary Hawking (Cornwall) was 3up after 12 holes with Bryan Ross after a solid front nine. But Bryan flipped the game on its head to win five holes on the spin, and bunker trouble on the 17th allowed Bryan to win with par, securing the match 2&1.
Day 1 Morning Foursomes: Durham 1.5–1.5 Surrey
Surrey’s Keith Waters and Les Bruckner were 2up through five but John Kirkpatrick and Anth Black won six of the next seven holes to go into a commanding 4up lead. Anth hit one to 10ft on the sixth for birdie while John almost chipped in on the seventh for a remarkable up-and-down to win the hole. A big drive paved the way on eight and a birdie on the par-five ninth gave the Surrey pair too much to do as they eventually lost 3&2.
Simon Skeldon and Nigel Pimm (Surrey) raced into a 2up lead through two before Stuart Brown made a crucial 20-footer for a half as he and Ian Hendry battled back to be 1up at the turn. On the 10th, Ian produced a sublime chip which rattled the flag but stayed out the hole, but Surrey’s Simon went one better by stopping one dead for a tap-in to win the hole with par. Skeldon and Pimm won four out of five holes and despite the match going dormie down the 16th, the Durham duo won 16 and 17 to put pressure on before the 18th was halved, giving Surrey the 1up win.
Bryan Ross and Brian Nelson (Durham) were neck and neck throughout with Simon Crockett and David Boxall. Neither side went more than 1up through the match, eventually finishing all-square on the last, despite a key turning point on the 11th where the Surrey pair hit two bunkers before managing to hole a chip for a vital half.
Afternoon Singles: Durham 2.5–3.5 Surrey
Keith Waters (Surrey) was in fine form with the driver and despite Tony Tomlin chipping well throughout and one even lipping out from 30 yards on seven, Keith was able to run away with the contest. The Surrey man stuck one to 6ft for birdie to win the seventh and was set for another birdie on nine after hitting the par-five in two before the hole was conceded, on his way to a 6&5 win.
Simon Skeldon (Surrey) was 4dn after eight holes to John Kirkpatrick but holed a crucial six-footer on the 15th before also winning 16 and 17 to take a 1up lead down the last. A stunning 40ft putt from off the green was almost holed but John couldn’t slot his seven-footer to win the hole and halve the game.
Anth Black (Durham) and Nigel Pimm enjoyed a thriller which went to the 18th. Nigel rolled in a 30ft putt on eight, hit the par-five ninth in two, and stuck a nine-iron to 6ft on 10, as three consecutive birdies saw him go from behind to 2up. Anth responded with a birdie at 11 before they tussled to the death, with pars seeing the match finish all-square.
There was never more than one hole in it between Stuart Brown (Durham) and Simon Crockett, with both starting superbly, birdieing the first. Stuart hit the flag on seven and very unfortunately saw his ball spin back off the green as the duo went on to halve it. Simon slotted a 15-footer for a birdie on 10 and then stuck one to 3ft on 12 for key birdies before two fine shots into wind from Stuart saw him level the match. Despite being 1up going down the last, Stuart was unable to find his two tee shots and conceded the hole to finish it all-square.
Nicholas Mansell (Durham) was 3up against David Boxall through six, but Boxall boxed his way back into the contest. He made a vital eight-footer to stay in the game on 16 at 1up, before Mansell missed a short par putt to win the match on 18.
Ian Barker (Surrey) came close to knocking in one of the putts of a lifetime on the ninth, where, from off the green and 120ft from the flag, he rolled to gimme distance to win the hole against Bryan Ross. However, Bryan managed to triumph 4&2, with thanks to a great up-and-down from the back of the 14th green for birdie.