Liz saves the best till last

TO quote the new county champion, Liz Laflin 'left the best till last' when she added the Matchplay crown to the Strokeplay title she clinched on Friday.

TO quote the new county champion, Liz Laflin 'left the best till last' when she added the Matchplay crown to the Strokeplay title she clinched on Friday.

There was a shake-out in the first and second rounds which left the four top qualifiers contesting the semi-finals. Laflin, Amanda Norman, Vicki Inglis and Lils James all strolled to victory in the quarters with at least three holes to spare and the only shock defeat along the way was that of Sharon Luckman, the defending champion, in the first round.

Challenged on the putting greens and, as she said later, struggling with the shots from 100 yards out, she survived into extra time when Emma Jukes missed a putt for the match on the 18th, but the lifeline went begging at the 20th and Jukes moved on through.

The semi-finals were both hard-fought, if entirely different matches. Laflin was four up against Inglis after nine, but the youngster, only 12 weeks away from a departure to the US on a golf scholarship, clawed back three holes before Laflin salvaged a half at the last for the match.

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James and Norman had a scrap that remained more or less level to 14 when Norman turned the screw, running out a three and one winner to meet Laflin in the final.

The afternoon was warmer and Laflin's golf was hot. Norman, on the other hand, found life tough and her opponent gave no quarter. Out in 34 against a par of 37, Laflin continued to hit the ball with solid confidence, her swing controlled and her putter in good working order. From the 10th, at four up, she carried on in the same vein.

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She offered slight encouragement at 12 to an opponent who deserves, if anyone does, to win a county championship, but snatched back the advantage at 13 with a hard-working four. At the 140-yard 14th, Laflin struck the perfect shot to leave herself an uphill putt from seven feet. Norman's last-ditch effort from a small knoll failed to reach the hole and that was that. For the Champion, 14 holes were covered in three under par.

Three days of really good golf from experienced and young golfers alike promises well for Suffolk's assault on the English County Championship in June.

The County team was announced: Heidi Baek (Felixstowe), Korrell Holly (Stowmarket), Vicki Inglis (Woodbridge), Lils James (Captain, Rookery Park), Liz Laflin (Stowmarket), Sharon Luckman (Felixstowe), Amanda Norman (Felixstowe), Hannah Rees (Rookery Park), Jo Taylor (Rushmere). Non-travelling reserves: Vicki Hunt (Ipswich), Emma Jukes (Stowmarket).

Championship results

First round: Liz Laflin bt Sarah Anderson (Diss) 5 & 4; Vicki Hunt bt Di Oliver (Bungay) 2 up; Vicki Inglis bt Kathryn Pitts (Bury) 3 & 2; Emma Jukes bt Sharon Luckman 20th; Amanda Norman bt Jackie Moore (Bungay) 4 & 3; Korrell Holly bt Jo Taylor 3 & 2; Sarah Alexander (Diss) bt Sarah Owen (Rushmere) 2 & 1; Lils James bt Ann Lockhart (Rookery Park) 7 & 5.

Quarter-finals: Laflin bt Hunt 4 & 3; Inglis bt Jukes 5 & 4; Norman bt Holly 4 & 3; James bt Alexander 5 & 3.

Semi-finals: Laflin bt Inglis 1 up; Norman bt James 3 & 1.

Final: Laflin beat Norman 5 & 4.

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