Suffolk win East Ladies’ golf title

The winning Suffolk team in East Ladies’ County Week. Back (from left): Lils James, Alice Barlow, Lo

The winning Suffolk team in East Ladies County Week. Back (from left): Lils James, Alice Barlow, Lottie Whyman, Vicki Inglis, Abbie Symonds and Fiona Edmond. Front: Sharon Luckman (vice-captain) Vanessa Bell (captain, with the Doris Abrahams Trophy) and Kevin Lovelock (PGA coach). Photograph: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Suffolk were winners at Hunstanton last week because of the loyalty shown by the players both to their captain, Vanessa Bell, and to the county. There was no question of any of the team leaving to enter individual events.

Fiona Edmond could have played in the English Senior Ladies’ Open Strokeplay Championship at Harpenden. She opted to support Suffolk.

Undefeated Lottie Whyman was Suffolk’s star player with eight wins and one half in a foursomes match. She and county champion Alice Barlow never considered playing anywhere else.

On the Thursday morning the odds were stacked in Norfolk’s favour. They were on top of the table with matches against Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, the weaker counties, still to come.

They let Amelia Williamson and Amy Taylor, their champion and runner-up, leave the squad to play in the Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters. They both missed the cut down in Kent. Norfolk must have expected to roll over Bedfordshire. They were mistaken

Now it was Suffolk, having demolished Cambridgeshire, in pole position. They needed to win their final match against Hertfordshire to take the title. It was by no means plain sailing on a cooler day with stronger winds.

Suffolk led 2-1 after the foursomes but defeats for Barlow in the top singles and Edmond in the third match left nerves jangling. The cool Whyman once again made no mistake but it was up to the captain and vice-captain, Bell and Sharon Luckman, to put the crucial points on the board. Bell won comfortably. It was after Luckman sunk a birdie putt on the 15th to secure the half she needed to beat teenager Millie Pratten that the Suffolk celebrations began.

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This took the pressure off Abbie Symonds in the final match. She did well to come away with a half against Kelly Hutcherson, the Hertfordshire captain and their best player.

Using only eight players (counties can name 12) was tactically sound. With Bell playing, Suffolk could name another team member as “captain able to give advice” on the day. That role fell to Vicki Inglis and Lils James which meant that everyone was very much involved.

Suffolk took Haverhill junior Fiona Stokes to Hunstanton where she absorbed the atmosphere and did sterling work as a caddy. All the Suffolk caddies played a key role in the team’s success. In the heat with their blue bibs for identification James Ross, Malcolm Coe, Mark Barlow, Andrew Whyman, Mick Wilce and Belinda Rowe all made a major contribution.

Suffolk will defend their title at Woodbridge next year when it is the county’s turn to act as East Week hosts.

The finals start at Felixstowe Ferry on September 18. Five rivals, yet to be decided, will arrive in Suffolk to represent North, South, South West, Midlands (South).

The last time the English Ladies’ county finals were staged in Suffolk was at Ipswich Golf Club 26 years ago when Glamorgan were the winners.

Since 1953 many prestige courses have hosted the finals. Felixstowe Ferry follow in the footsteps of Princes, Lindrick, Hillside, Hunstanton, Parkstone and many others.

There have been four previous East winners. Essex were triumphant in 1977, 1979 and most recently in 2012 at East Devon. Hertfordshire won in 2010. Yorkshire have been the dominant county with 10 wins between 1998 and 2013.

The dog on the Doris Abraham Trophy is a different breed for each region. All the trophies will be on display at Felixstowe.

When Suffolk men reached the England county finals at Beau Desert in 2012 it took a chunk out of the Suffolk Golf Union bank balance. Suffolk Ladies being at Felixstowe Ferry will reduce travelling costs but keeping the squad together all week in a hotel would seem the way forward.

- Guy Maynard, who plays off a handicap of seven, won the Southwold Junior Open on his home course with 41 Stableford points. He received his trophy from club captain Gordon Stewart.

Division One prizes went to James Bennett (Bawburgh), Conal Downing (Rookery Park) and Will Garland (Ipswich). In Division Two Luke Hembling (Southwold) was the winner with 39 points. Joe Ford (Southwold) beat George Sommerville (Dereham) for second place on count back with 37 points. Chloe Dixon of Ufford Park won the girls’ prize with 32 points.