England’s men and women win Home Internationals

England’s joint men’s and women’s team – which featured Arcot Hall’s Rachel Gourley and Close House’s Maggie Whitehead – snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on a dramatic final day in the Home Internationals at Ballyliffin.

A final score of 11-10 in favour of England allowed the 16-strong combined squad to pip hosts Ireland to the inaugural R&A Trophy following earlier wins against Wales and Scotland.

In the fight for the Men’s Home International title, England also edged out Ireland to win the Raymond Trophy. England was only denied a hat-trick of wins on countback – Ireland’s women pipping their rivals on game points after their head-to-head ended in a 4.5-4.5 draw.

All three trophies were decided right at the death on a dramatic day in County Donegal. Six of the 14 singles games went down to the final hole with England winning two and halving four of those games.

Maggie Whitehead and Rachel Gourley

England Golf’s performance director, Nigel Edwards, said: “There were some exceptional performances and the players can be proud of their efforts. At one point, it didn’t look as if it would be our day against a strong Ireland side, but the players dug deep and were able to grind out vital points and half points when it mattered most.

“I’m delighted with the effort from a joint squad that featured some new faces as well as players still eligible for junior golf who stepped up to the plate. To win the inaugural joint event is something that goes down in the record books and can never be taken away from this group of players.”

Ireland carried a 4-3 lead from the morning foursomes into the afternoon singles – England’s opening three points being gathered by the pairings of Sam Bairstow and Arron Edwards-Hill, Rachel Gourley and Lottie Woad, and Lucy Jamieson and Hannah Screen.

That left England needing eight points from the 14 singles to win. With most of the games on the back nine, the score predictor had Ireland 12-9 ahead.

Arron Edwards-Hill brought home half a point from the opening game against Peter O’Keefe. Sam Bairstow then fought back from one down playing the last to earn a half with Mark Power. Lottie Woad then sealed a crucial win on the 18th hole of her match with Kate Lanigan and John Gough also fought back to earn half a point against Liam Nolan.

Hannah Screen’s valuable win on the 17th hole appeared straightforward by comparison to other games on the course. Olly Huggins took his point on the final green – a fine swansong to his England amateur career – as Josh Berry showed great maturity to beat the experienced Hugh Foley 2&1.

Harley Smith and Jack Bigham added two more points while the decisive moment came in the match involving Rachel – her half point against Sara Byrne ensuring England got over the line by the smallest of margins.