The DevonGolf Senior side went to Minehead for their second Channel League match of the season looking for a win to balance the disappointment of the home loss the previous week to Glamorgan. They were met with a fast running links course in excellent condition, and a beautiful sunny day albeit one with a chilly and strengthening wind blowing straight down and into the face on the back nine.
With Paul Newcombe, Tim Aggett and Peter Bicknell all unavailable and a fit-again Andre Hogan away at the Irish Seniors there were changes to the DevonGolf side, with 2015 Senior Champion Phil Lyons from Churston, hugely experienced Graham Ruth (Tavistock) and Kevin Hill (RND) coming in.
The morning foursomes were as close as ever, with two outright wins for Somerset and one for Devon, a 1up victory for Paul Vicary (Saunton) and Phil Lyons (Churston). The final holes of the first and last matches ultimately proved crucial in the game itself. Both came to the last Devon 1 up. Current Somerset County Captain James Ward (Oake Manor) and Matt Lazenby (Enmore) made a spectacular birdie into the breeze at the 200-yard final hole to snatch a half against Richard Ward (Dainton Park) and Tony Allsopp (Tiverton). In the last game the tee shot from the Warren’s Barrie Keith caught a sandy spot and stuck where it might have bounced forward onto the green, and from where he and Kevin Hill couldn’t make par and had to settle for a halved match with Steve Thomas (Weston) and Jeremy Parrot (Burnham). Somerset 3-2 up at lunch.
A fast start to the singles was vital, but it didn’t happen. Promoted from final foursomes to top single Steve Thomas played solid golf to defeat Dave Eva (Thurlestone) 2/1, never bending as Dave battled away without ever quite getting on terms. Oake Manor’s Steve Rudd was equally solid in beating DevonGolf's Ward 4/3, finishing the game with an excellent birdie at the short par 4 15th. Captain Colin Papworth (Teignmouth) was locked in a real battle with James Ward, who had four birdies on the front nine to establish a 3up advantage at the turn. All square after 14 as Papworth fought back; the next three all halved in pars, but with the 18th playing longer and longer as the wind got up Ward’s excellent par was enough to grab the point for Somerset.
In game 4 Allsopp was struggling against Kelvin Green (Bath). Kelvin was playing really well, and Tony was suffering problems with his eye after getting significant amounts of grit into it during the previous day’s practice round. Not a great combo. Kelvin closed the game out on the 14th.
From there on the news looked a great deal better for DevonGolf. Vicary was his usual dependable self, eventually beating Parrot at the 16th. Lyons put George Ceel (Wheathill) a little to the sword whilst Mark Evans (RND) ground out a final hole victory over Lazenby. Keith was involved in a nip and tuck fight with Burnham’s Frank Ward which eventually went Devon’s way at the last.
Enmore’s Paddy McLennan had won the first 3 holes against Hill, and the Devon man could never quite get back on terms, and that match went Somerset’s way at the 15th, and with it the overall tie as Somerset got the 5 wins they needed. In the final match Ruth had established a strong early lead over Martin Cashnella but the Bath golfer finished with a pair of 3s to grab a half.
It was a fantastic and deserved win for the Somerset side, one that leaves Devon with a great deal to do to challenge for the retention of their title, needing help from elsewhere too. The Channel League resumes for DevonGolf in 6 weeks with a match against Wiltshire at Stover.