Lancashire pulled off the great escape today when they snatched victory from Sussex in the title showdown for the English Senior Men’s County Championship.
Bryan Hughes drained a 30ft putt on the 18th at Stanton-on-the-Wolds to win his match by one hole and give Lancashire their third win in this championship.
“It was the putt of my life,” said the 2017 British Senor Champion. “And it was the first one I holed today!”
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Lancashire’s 5-4 win was a result which had seemed highly unlikely as little as 45 minutes earlier and underlined, once again, the team’s ability to dig deep when it counts. “You couldn’t write this script,” said team member Neil Self, who contributed a 5/4 win to the scoreline.
Tony Flanagan, who won 3/2 in the singles, added: “I don’t know how we did that. We’ve been behind every day.”
That’s been the theme of their championship. Each day they’ve trailed their opposition, each day they’ve frayed their captain’s nerves – but each day they’ve kept themselves in it and, finally, claimed the prize.
Their emotional captain Mike Gray said: “I have always believed in them but at times today I thought someone up there didn’t!
“When they have to, they dig in, they deliver. They play for the team and they just don’t give up. And winning this is just a wonderful feeling,” added Gray, who was making his seventh visit to county finals, five as a player and twice as a winning captain.
Today’s match was always going to be tight. Sussex, with two good wins behind them, were clearly in good and confident form. And the action unfolded as predicted. The foursomes were shared with two tense matches going to the 18th.
As the singles got underway Sussex appeared to have a real grip on the match. They were ahead in four games as the players went through six holes and up in five at the half way stage.
Lancashire got the first point, courtesy of Neil Self, but Martin King delivered a major boost for Sussex when he beat British Senior Champion Trevor Foster 3/2. “I just played great match play golf. I was in trouble a few times on the back nine and Trevor probably thought he would get one back but I escaped,” he said.
The next point went Lancashire’s way, thanks to Tony Flanagan, but Sussex were up in the other three games on the course. It was the signal for the Lancashire rally to begin.
Ian Crowther brought them within touching distance of an unlikely victory when he came from behind to win the last hole to halve his game. Then Bryan Hughes completed the comeback with his last hole birdie. It was the only time he was up in his match – but it was enough!
In the final game on the course Tony Flanagan kept fighting and took the action to the 18th, but Martin Galway made sure the point went to Sussex, who are runners-up for the second year in succession.
In the day’s other match Dorset defeated the host county, Nottinghamshire 6.5-2.5 to take third place.