LANCASHIRE came out on top in the winner takes all clash with Gloucestershire on the final day of Men’s County Finals to once again be crowned champions of England.
Both teams entered today’s final session with two wins apiece from the opening two day’s play at Royal Norwich in the four-team round robin also featuring Surrey and Derbyshire.
As fate would have it, the two teams tied at the top after two rounds of fixtures faced off on the final day with Gloucestershire knowing that even a draw would allow them to retain their trophy by virtue of game points won over the week.
However, the red rose county won both the morning foursomes session (2-1) and the afternoon singles (4-2) to claim a 6-3 overall victory and take their 13th title in an event dating back to 1926.
In the match to decide third spot, Derbyshire prevailed despite a draw in the clash with Surrey. Game points over the three days decided third place in Derbyshire’s favour.
The main honour, though, went to a seven-man Lancashire team skippered by Gareth White.
Jack Brooks took four and a half points from his six games and was thrilled that the team dealt with pressure and expectation to come out on top.
“It’s brilliant – we’ve worked so hard this week,” admitted the England international.
“We got the week off to a great start beating Surrey and Derbyshire and today it was always going to be a tough game against the defending champions.
“To see so much black on the scoreboard this afternoon spurred us on to do it for each other.
“We have fantastic team spirit and I’m so proud for all of the lads – it’s not just the players, we have such a big following as well and it’s special to win team golf.
Aussie Matt Lever spends his summer with family in Bolton and relishes playing county golf – and so it proved with five points from six in an outstanding three days of golf.
He added: “It feels great. I played well and the team did well. We have a great team spirit.”
That team spirit came to the fore in the morning session.
Gloucestershire’s Joe Harvey and Jake Phillips got the better of Callan Barrow and Brooks in the opening game.
However, Lever and Ian Kenwright polished off a point for Lancashire on the 16th hole against Nick Day and Ed Butler.
The final foursomes game of the morning proved to be a thriller and a turning point in the showdown.
The Gloucestershire pairing of Tom Workman and Josh Millington were two up with three to play. However, Andrew Haswell and Jamie van Wyk won the 16th with a par and then finished with two birdies to give Lancashire a 2-1 lead at lunch.
With the wind in their sails, Lancashire never looked back. A sea of black figures on the board told a story of a team confident in their ability to finish the job.
Brooks won his singles against Harvey on the 16th green while Barrow earned a half in the top match against Jake Phillips
Lever closed out his game with a win on the final green against Nick Day and the honour of clinching the winning point fell to the oldest player in the Lancashire squad – Kenwright.
The Haydock Park golfer beat Millington 2&1 while the seal was set on the day with a half point delivered by Jack McPhail in the final game against Tom Workman. Fittingly, it was achieved with a smart 15-footer for birdie.
In the fight for third spot, Derbyshire took the honours against Surrey.
Derbyshire was making only their second-ever appearance in the Men’s County Finals, while Surrey had won the event on 11 previous occasions.
The two teams shared the spoils with a 4.5-4.5 match score, but Derbyshire finished ahead of Surrey by a single game point won over the three days.
The 2023 English Men’s County Finals will be held at Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club.