Essex prove too strong for Suffolk

SUFFOLK Ladies found a youthful and very talented Essex team too strong in their opening match of County Week at the Links Golf Club in Newmarket yesterday.

Tony Garnett

SUFFOLK Ladies found a youthful and very talented Essex team too strong in their opening match of County Week at the Links Golf Club in Newmarket yesterday.

It was tough to face such formidable opposition in the opening game, but Suffolk can look forward to the rest of their programme with a degree of optimism.

Outstanding performances came from Liz Laflin, of Stowmarket, a Suffolk stalwart for several years, and 14-year-old Heidi Baek, of Felixstowe Ferry. Laflin took early control of her match against Samantha Lovell and never looked like taking her foot off the pedal. She won 6 and 5.

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Baek, the England under-15 champion, took several holes to establish her supremacy against Georgina Kilby. Birdies were needed for any breakthrough and Baek sunk a vital putt at the seventh when the ball just dropped after waiting for gravity to take its course on the lip.

Both Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire have current 14-year-old county champions, so it was no surprise to see Baek take a match like this in her stride.

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The top game was between Vicki Inglis, of Woodbridge, Suffolk's matchplay champion, and Jenny Pease, of Braintree, who is the leading player in Essex at present. Pease reached the quarter-finals of the English Ladies Amateur Championship at Ganton, knocking out the holder, Naomi Edwards, on the way. Inglis missed the cut for the matchplay at Ganton, so she knew the calibre of the opposition yesterday. Pease won 2 and 1.

Sharon Luckman, of Felixstowe, was soon three down against Kelly Martin, but then staged a courageous comeback to be all square on the 16th tee. Luckman's drive ended blocked out by trees on the left. She had to chip out, but then played a glorious approach that earned her a half and kept her in the game as Martin missed a slippery five foot putt to regain her lead.

At the 168-yard par three 17th Luckman was in semi-rough on the left, but produced a marvellous chip that left her with a certain par. Martin was on the green and then sunk a 22-yard putt for a birdie to go dormie one up. At the last Martin closed the game out with another birdie despite a great approach shot from Luckman that drew applause from the large band of followers who were braving the damp conditions, drizzle turning into rain.

Amanda Norman was always struggling after Lizzie Taylor produced four birdies in the first six holes to take a grip on the match that she never relaxed. Norman played steady golf and reduced the deficit to two for a brief spell, but then the Essex girl pulled away again.

Suffolk captain Lils James, who has recovered from her wrist problem, held Lucy Clarke for a long time. It was only on the back nine that Clarke, elder sister of 2007 Essex men's champion Jack Clarke, showed the consistency needed for victory.

Suffolk meet old rivals Norfolk today with the foursomes teeing off at 8.45am. Norfolk lost by eight-and-a-half to a half against Hertfordshire. Cambridgeshire and Hunts beat Bedfordshire 6-3.


Suffolk names first:

Foursomes: Liz Laflin (Stowmarket) and Heidi Baek (Felixstowe Ferry) lost to Jenny Pease (Braintree) and Lucy Clarke (Chelmsford) 2 and 1, Amanda Norman and Sharon Luckman (both Felixstowe Ferry) halved with Samantha Lovell (Stock Brook) and Georgina Kilby (The Warren), Lils James (Rookery Park) and Vicki Inglis (Woodbridge) lost to Kelly Martin (Chelmsford) and Lizzie Taylor (West Essex) 3 and 2.

Singles: Inglis lost to Pease 2 and 1, Laflin beat Lovell 6 and 5, Luckman lost to Martin two down, Baek beat Kilby 5 and 4, Norman lost to Taylor 5 and 4, James lost to Clarke 5 and 3.

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