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England Looking For Another European Victory

by Colin Callander - March 3, 2014

England will start out as the firm favourites when the annual European Nations Championship gets under way this week at Sotogrande in southern Spain.

The English are targeting their fifth win in six years and have named a strong side headed by US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick and also including European champion Ashley Chesters, Amateur champion Garrick Porteous and the in-form Ryan Evans, who claimed three victories during a recent trip to Australia.

Fitzpatrick, Porteous and Evans currently all hold a place within the top 20 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, with 19-year-old Fitzpatrick in second spot ahead of fourth-placed Porteous and 26-year-old Evans, who is 15th.

Twelve months ago, an English side consisting of Porteous, Nathan Kimsey, Toby Tree and Max Orrin combined for a six-shot victory against a French squad comprising Thomas Elissalde, Romain Langasque, Pierre Mazier and Adrien Saddier.

Ireland, represented by Alan Dunbar, Dermot McElroy, Rory Mc- Namara and Reeve Whitson, were third ahead of Portugal, Germany and Denmark.

Matthew Fitzpatrick

The individual honours were shared by French No. 1 Saddier and Germany’s Maximilian Röhrig, who both posted 5-under-par aggregates of 283 to finish three shots ahead of Denmark’s Christian Gløet and young Italian star Renato Paratore.

The leading English individual was Tree, who finished fifth on 1-under par 287, a shot ahead of both Porteous and Orrin. Kimsey was tied 16th in the individual rankings but his opening 73 and his third-round 71 both contributed to his team’s winning total.

McElroy, from Ballymena, who earned maximum points for his country at last year’s Home Internationals at Ganton, is the sole survivor of the Irish side that finished third behind the English 12 months ago. This time round, he is joined by 2013 Irish Close champion Cormac Sharvin, last year’s North of Ireland champion Gary Hurley, and Jack Hume from Naas, who finished runner-up to Finland’s Albert Eckhardt at the 2013 Lytham Trophy.

The Scottish selectors have named 2013 Order of Merit winner Jack Mc- Donald, Glenbervie’s Graeme Robertson, reigning Scottish Boys’ Champion Bradley Neil and Dollar’s Scott Borrowman in this year’s team and they travel to Spain boosted by their recent victory against hosts South Africa in the annual test match at Leopard Creek. Both Robertson and Neil were members of that winning team.

Scottish Performance Manager Steve Paulding sees the European Nations Championship – formerly known as the Sherry Cup – as the latest opportunity for his players to “put down a marker” for the season ahead.

“We have two groups of players in contention for places in our European and Eisenhower teams – those based at home who have been able to access our training camps in the UAE and South Africa and those based in the US,” he said.

The latter group includes 2012 Scottish Amateur champion Grant Forrest, who is currently at the University of San Diego, Tennesseebased former Scottish Youths’ champion Ewan Scott and James Ross, the 2013 Scottish Golfer of the Year, who is at the University of Houston.

“This is the chance for the home-based players to lay their irst marker down in top European competition,” Paulding added. “We have a mixture of youth and experience, with all the players showing good progress over the winter, and I expect the team to play well.”

The last time Scotland won the European Nations Championship was back in 2008 when its team comprised Scott Henry, Callum Macaulay, Wallace Booth and Keir McNicoll. Previous winners of the individual competition at the championship include Rory McIlroy, Sergio García, Francesco Molinari and Shane Lowry.

Wales decided not to send a team to this year’s men’s European Nations Championship but will take part in the concurrent women’s event.

“Unfortunately, there will be no Wales men’s team at the event this year, simply because so many of our current internationals are away at college in the US on golf scholarships and so are unavailable for selection,” said Wales Director of Performance Ben Waterhouse.

Wales has named a strong squad as it bids to build on its impressive third-place finish at last year’s women’s event at the European Nations Championship at Sotogrande.

The team goes into the Spanish event full of confidence after its impressive victory at last year’s Women’s Home Internationals at Scotscraig Golf Club in Fife, where they defeated all three of the other home countries on their way to claiming the coveted Miller Trophy.

Wrexham’s Chloe Williams and Haverfordwest’s Becky Harries retain their places in this year’s European Nations Championship team and they will be joined by Samantha Birks, from Llandrindod Wells, a replacement for Curtis Cup player Amy Boulden, who has turned professional.

Williams assumes Boulden’s role as the senior member of the Welsh team after a fine 2013 season during which she finished second behind Spaniard Patricia Sanz Barrio in last year’s individual event at Sotogrande and then strengthened her claims for a place in this year’s Curtis Cup team when she won six points out of six at the Home Internationals.

“This is an experienced Wales ladies team under coach Jeremy Bennett and we are looking forward to them doing as well, or hopefully better, than last year,” said Waterhouse.

“Sam, Becky and Chloe are all experienced internationals despite their age, and were all part of the winning Home Internationals team last summer where they really proved themselves once again.

“This will be a tough challenge against most of the best amateur ladies in Europe, but it is a good way to start the international season and continue the run of success for the Wales Ladies,” he added.

The Welsh girls will be up against several formidable teams including England, who are represented by 22-year-old Sarah-Jane Boyd, the reigning national amateur champion, 17-year-old Gabby Cowley, runnerup in the recent Portuguese Ladies Championship and another 17-yearold, Annabel Dimmock, who has just completed a successful stint in the United States during which she won the match-play Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur and was runner-up in the South Atlantic Women’s Amateur.

Last year’s women’s European Nations Championship was won by host nation Spain, represented by Sanz Barrio, Clara Baena Sanchez and 2014 Portuguese Ladies Amateur champion Silvia Bañón Ibáñez. They combined to record a four-round aggregate of 585 to beat a German team comprising Vicki Troeltsch, Quirine Eijkenboom and Antonia Scherer by five shots.

In the individual event Sanz Barrio carded rounds of 74, 71, 69 and 73 for a 1-under par aggregate of 287 and a three-shot victory ahead of Williams. Denmark’s Nicole Larsen was third on 297, while England’s Georgia Hall was fourth a further shot behind.

The European Nations Championship is contested over 72 holes of stroke play, with the best three cards each day in the men’s event, and the best two in the women’s, counting towards the team total. The individual competitions run simultaneously with Nations Championships and are also settled over 72 holes.

Daniel Young and Scott Gibson were the last Scots standing at this year’s Sanlam South African Amateur Championship at Hermanus Golf Club.

The 22-year-old from Craigie Hill and his 21-year-old compatriot from Southerness both battled through to the quarterfinals before being defeated by South African opposition.

Those defeats meant that for the first time since 2011 Scotland did not have a representative in the last four of the leading South African amateur event. That year, Michael Stewart defeated Paul Shfields in the first all-Scottish final in the history of the championship. Twelve months later, Brian Souter emulated Stewart’s achievement when he beat Brandon Stone in the final and then last year, Ewan Scott reached the last four before bowing out to Andrew Light.

This year’s championship started in promising fashion for the Scots when Young finished tied third behind Ernie Els’ nephew, Jovan Rebula, in the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying competition and all five of his compatriots also made it into the match-play stages.

England’s Tree also qualified for the knockout stages, but he fell at the first hurdle when he lost by 2 and 1 to South Africa’s Marco Steyn.

All six Scots progressed to the second round where British Boys’ champion Ewen Ferguson lost out in an all-Scottish clash against Connor Syme and Ben Kinsley also fell by the wayside when he was defeated by Jason Viljoen.

Syme and Cawder’s Jamie Savage were casualties in the third round before Young and Gibson saw their challenge come to an end in the last eight against James Du Preez and reigning champion Thriston Lawrence, respectively.

Lawrence won the championship, beating Altin van der Merwe by 5 and 4 in the 36-hole final to become the first player since Teddy Webber in 1978 to successfully defend the title.

Twelve months before, Lawrence had become the youngest winner of the championship at just 16 years, 2 months and 26 days.

Hamish Grey, chief executive of the Scottish Golf Union, has announced that he expects more golf clubs to close in the Home of Golf.

Grey expressed that view in an interview with Fraser Dunsmuir published on www.golfclubmanagement.net.

In the past six months, two historic Scottish clubs, Torphin Hill and Lothianburn, have folded and several others are believed to be under serious financial threat.

“I’d be very surprised if there aren’t more closures, though I have no idea how many and it would be wrong to speculate on the number,” Grey said.

“You always have to look after the people who are your customers and maybe it was a case in golf when clubs had long waiting lists that they were too relaxed and didn’t feel as though they should be worried about the future.

“The problem is deeper than just the recession,” he added. “The real issue is that consumer behaviour is changing and that’s not unique to golf, it’s happening to gym memberships, to political parties. People are engaging in different ways. There is more choice than ever, not just (with) what you do, but how you do it.

“With golf, people are playing more nomadically. If we continue to offer what we recognise as traditional memberships, as a take-it-or-leave-it approach, then more and more golfers are going to say ‘no’ to that. They’ll not take it. They want more flexibility.”

During the interview Grey also indicated that discussions on the amalgamation of the Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Ladies’ Golf Association are progressing well.

“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes,” he confirmed. “The working group is continuing with its work and I think it would be fair to say that they are now starting to write a proposal. We’re not doing this for the next year, we’re doing it for the next 50 to 100 years. So we are going to make sure we get that right – and that is right by everybody’s definition.”

We end this week by offering our heartiest congratulations to Peter Baker, the new captain at Ellesmere Port Golf Club. He is thought to be the first prelingual deaf person (someone born deaf or becoming deaf before learning to speak) to hold such an office in the UK.

“Being deaf is certainly no barrier to Peter as he seems to take everything in his stride,” confirmed Ellesmere Port Secretary Dave Sewell. “He fully deserves his appointment, he is a truly remarkable, popular and inspirational member of the golf club and the members of the golf club are very proud of him.”

Baker has been an accomplished sportsman all his life and represented GB at athletics in the Paralympics and the deaf European and World Championships. He has also run from John O’Groats to Land’s End and taken part in the New York Marathon. He represents England Deaf Golf and currently plays off a 5 handicap.

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