Women’s First Team Manager Sarah Hoff reports on the 3 gruelling days for the Devon Women’s team at Clevedon Golf Club.

Results tell only one story.  As the great Bobby Jones said, “I never learned anything from a match that I won.“

Like the matches at Wimbledon, a match result doesn’t really tell the reader anything except who the eventual winner was. It certainly doesn’t tell the story that unfolds during the course of a match between high calibre players. As the manager of this brave and exciting young team I am both immensely proud and, quite frankly, emotionally exhausted following an incredibly tight ‘match week’, for which the results do not in any way reflect the efforts of my team. I will attempt to explain why, but first I must thank those people that took time out of their busy lives to support me and this new team. Vicky Holloway, my assistant, caddy and buggy master who went through the full range of emotions with me throughout the course of the 3-day event and Gro Lomas, my logistics queen and caddy - I owe a huge debt of thanks to you both for all your help, advice and boundless energy over the Championships. Wendy Stanbury, who was always there when she was needed, and never for one moment expected to caddy for Emily 4 times around a course as hilly as Clevedon. Emily disclosed that in 1 day’s play (2 matches) she had walked 26 thousand steps – needless to say her matches usually went down to the wire! Finally, our DevonGolf Vice President Pam St Leger, starter for the Devon home matches, caddying or walking the fairways in support of the team. I thank you all very much.

For those of you who don’t know them, this is my Devon team:

Back: Carys Morris, Liz Bird, Emily Morey, Sophie Page, Lauren McGinnis
Front: Nikki Kidd, Lorna Elliott, Gudrun Nolan, Abby Turner

Abby Turner, the most capped Devon player in the team, has a “never say die” attitude and frustrates the hell out of the opposition as the master of the recovery shot and, as an Okehampton member, she knows how to play from the uneven lies. Her Dad, Ben, caddied for her on the final day and realised what a tiring course it was in such gloriously hot weather. Abby fought like a tiger, using all her experience and grinding the opposition down but, sadly, she lost out on the last putt on the last green - 1 down.

Liz Bird, a member of Royal North Devon and a very experienced match player who, like Abby, will fight for the team until the very last shot. Liz has already achieved county colours with Cornwall and is well on the way to achieving colours with Devon. Liz is the consummate professional and prepared in the best way she could with hours of practice ahead of this event. But even the best made plans don’t always result in a win, but she certainly entertained us playing incredible shots, often at crucial times.  

Lauren McGinnis from Churston, currently studying at Bath University, has returned for coaching sessions with the team. Lauren played 5 of the 5 matches and threaded her shots beautifully through the tree lined fairways more often than not. On day 1 she played against Sarah Burnell (former Stover Assistant Professional) and Abby Gray from Somerset (last year’s champions). Sarah was quick to tell me afterwards that she was very impressed with Lauren and she thought was a lovely player. 

Next, I would like to introduce, Carys Morris the 17-year old, formerly of Portmore and now the Junior Captain of Tiverton and the Devon U18 girls. Carys came into the team after Lexi Dart became unavailable to play a short time before the event. Undaunted, Carys not only stepped up but excelled herself by partnering Lauren to a 2-up win against two very experienced Cornish players on the first morning of Day 1. They lost 1-up by the narrowest of margins in the afternoon against Somerset’s Sarah Burnell and Abby Gray and they secured a good 5-3 win against the Wiltshire pairing on Tuesday afternoon. Carys and Lauren lost out to a very strong and experienced Gloucestershire pairing of Jo Hodge and Sam round on the final day. This foursomes pairing is certainly one for the future.

Sophie Page is arguably one of the most exciting young talents to play in the Devon women`s team for some years. She is a mere 16 years old, hits the ball a country mile, is studying golf at Hartpury College and is an East Devon member.  Sophie played in all 5 sessions in both singles and foursomes matches, scoring a fantastic half on day 1 against Somerset while partnering clubmate Gudrun Nolan.  Furthermore, mention must be made of their impressive 6-5 Foursomes win against Gloucestershire’s Kate Thurlow and Megan Bartlett. Sophie is definitely one to watch.     

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening- and it is without doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” Arnold Palmer.  

The next team member I would like to introduce is Gudrun Nolan, a member of East Devon and formerly the Junior Icelandic squad. Not only did she finish runner up to Chloe Howard in the County Championships at Saunton in May this year, but she has recently just sat her A-levels. It’s been a busy schedule for this ambitious 18-year old golfer and, once again, the youngsters were needed to play all 5 matches at Clevedon. Gudrun only just lost out to the Cornish Champion Danielle Hardwick in the opening match and I witnessed some stunning golf from them both. Gudrun then teamed up with Sophie on Monday afternoon to play the first Somerset pairing of Aimee Sawyer (a former plus 3 handicapper) and Ellen Reakes. After a match that saw an amazing standard of golf, the Devon pair secured a well-earned half point on 18.

Next, Gudrun teamed up with Emily Morey, still in her early 20's and another young East Devon player who has represented Devon in this championship since 2016. Emily is a real team player, always smiling, hits the ball a long way and is someone who can sink putts when it matters. She often performs well under pressure and is never afraid to be the anchor woman when lots are watching. This week Emily was selected to play 5 of the 5 matches and, alongside Gudrun, they proved to be another strong pairing which meant that Dorset's top pairing of Harriett Teversham and Alice Webb were definitely on the ropes many times. In the end, Dorset won by the narrowest of margins on the last putt on the 18th green. Emotions were indeed a bit raw by the end of the Dorset match on the Tuesday morning. Devon had lost one match on the 17th and the other four matches went down to the 18th. We could have won all of them, and those that lined the 18th fairway and surrounded the green were powerless to help. Golf can be cruel, and instead we just missed out and ended up losing 5-0. It was so hard on the girls after they had come so very close. 

Next to mention is Lorna Elliott, a former member of Dartmouth and newly appointed Retail Manager and Club Secretary, we are all very proud of her. She is now a playing member of Torquay and a welcome asset to any club. Lorna is a very upbeat member of the team and, although still young, has delivered results in the past for the Second Team when it has mattered. Now debuting for the First Team, she proved that she is a real team player and even made the girls cupcakes with TEAM DEVON spelt out on the icing tops. Lorna caddied on Day 1 and on Day 2 was teamed up with newbie Nikki Kidd from Bigbury. To many it was an unlikely pairing, two rookies together, but it worked and is definitely one for the future. Both Lorna and Nikki made a great foursomes pairing and both bounced off each other. 

Nikki Kidd has recently moved down to Bigbury from bonny Scotland and has not been playing golf for very long. She is our new secret weapon and brings a huge amount of experience to this team having competed at elite level sport for many years. Like many, she has turned to golf having played hockey, but the X factor is that she has over 170 caps for Scotland and has competed in both European Championships and Commonwealth Games over many years. What an asset and, alongside Lorna who brought both experience and good strategy, they combined well. Nevertheless, they lost out to Wiltshire’s Alex Patton and Ashleigh Thorne 1-up after narrowly missing the last putt on 18. Similarly, it was a very close match against a strong and experienced Dorset pairing of Melissa McMahon and Becky Hobell to leave Devon on the losing side 2-up. Ultimately, as the great Henry Cotton said, “Every shot counts. The 3-foot putt is as important as the 300-yard drive.“

Importantly, the team spirit was strong over the whole event and everyone was there for each other. After 3 years’ of Covid restrictions we could be together as a team again - and we won together and lost together. The Somerset Captain Gill Brown was given a card which all Devon players signed, thanking her for hosting this event. She was noticeably moved and wrote to me saying, “The comments from your team were lovely they are a credit to you and Devon.”  What I am trying to convey is that all these counties have some brilliant players, and the standard of golf is very impressive. I would ask that clubs who have players representing Devon at these events come and support their members and see their amazing play first-hand. 

The new format of 2 Foursomes pairings followed by 3 Singles matches against each county in a morning or an afternoon session has served to open up the event, giving opportunity to all 6 counties rather than 1 dominant county winning every year. This year Wiltshire beat Dorset 3-2 and Dorset beat the eventual winners Somerset 4 -2. Somerset were crowned the eventual winners, scoring the same number of wins as Dorset - 4 wins and 1 loss. So taken on countback meant Somerset won by 1 game – 18½-17½ games. Congratulations to Somerset for lifting the South West title. 

The final scores were:
Cornwall 3 v Devon 2, Devon ½ v Somerset 4½, Dorset 5 v Devon 0, Devon 2½ v Wiltshire 2½ and Gloucestershire 4 v Devon 1.

It has been my absolute privilege to be the First Team Manager of the Devon Women’s Team. Over a period of time a team’s set of performances will have ebbs and flows and, over the last 3 years, I have been unable to select some of the names you are most used to reading about. Many young women choose to have families, fly the nest or prioritise other things. Having said that, it in no way waters down the achievements of this team. On the contrary, it has given me the opportunity to create a young and exciting new team who have proved they have what it takes to win such an event in the future. There is work to be done in order to turn these near misses into points, but there is a real belief developing that we can now beat the likes of Gloucestershire, who won not only the South West crown but the national title 5 years in a row. Somerset have now won the title 2 years’ running and have depth in numbers. 

I was grateful to receive some good luck cards and a number of messages which I passed onto the girls. They were much appreciated, thank you. This prestigious event is a spectacle worth watching and these top Devon players really appreciate those that gave up their time to support them. There are 44 affiliated clubs in Devon and I can’t help but think that it would be lovely to see far more representatives lining the fairways in the Devon blue at future events, particularly the clubs who have girls playing. My motto this week was, “Together we are stronger – believe and achieve.” 

Finally, I would like to thank my team for their incredible efforts this week. It will certainly be a SWICC I will never forget. These players are not professionals and although many have come down in handicap, many continue to juggle priorities such as work, family commitments, and for some, school or further education. I sincerely hope that these top players continue to believe in themselves and, moving forward, continue to enjoy representing Devon for many years to come.

Sarah Hoff 
Devon Women`s First Team Manager

Return to News Page

Created by intelligentgolf version 10.1.2.