Sheffield Unionof Golf Clubs
Strong winds swept across Sitwell Park on Sunday but failed to blow Sheffield’s Inter-District team off course. A scintillating singles performance saw them defeat York and put themselves in prime position in the Inter District League.
Both sides were missing players, with the visitors deprived of David Hague and Charlie Thornton, both winners of national events this season, whilst for Sheffield, Bailey Gill’s continuing involvement in the St Andrews Links Trophy meant he was still in Scotland. To this end, special mention must be made of Wath’s Nick Poppleton.
Having missed the cut at the Home of Golf on Saturday, Poppleton’s first act was to phone Sheffield Captain Neil Stones. The Captain graciously stepped aside, and 16 hours after leaving St Andrews Poppleton was on the first tee at Sitwell Park to partner Matt Evans in the morning’s first foursomes match.
The ensuing 4&2 victory over Damon Coulson and Craig Smith made the effort worthwhile. Jamie Harrison and Jordan Perry also took the second game for Sheffield, but a match against such strong opponents was never going to be straightforward. The young third pair of Charlie Daughtrey and Sam Bairstow couldn’t cope with the difficult conditions as well as their more experienced opponents, including last year’s Yorkshire President Jonathan Plaxton, whose sons Ben and Josh were also in the York side. Tim Brind and Gary Fullwood clung on to win the fifth game, but at lunch the match was level at 6-6.
So far, then, so predictably close: no-one had thought that the afternoon would prove to be so one-sided. Poppleton, who said that St Andrews had seemed tranquil by comparison, saw off the big hitting Damon Coulson in the top singles; Matt Evans and Craig Smith shared a plethora of birdies in the second game, but the Phoenix man made the majority in a 4&2 win; Hallowes’ Sam Bairstow was two down with three holes to play but won them all to beat Jamie Miller, and suddenly Sheffield had taken the first three games.
York closed the gap with wins at four and five; but that was the last joy they would see. When Lewis Hollingworth, fresh from his Yorkshire debut last week, saw off Josh Plaxton 5&3 in the final game of the day, Sheffield had won six and halved one of the final seven games. The afternoon tally was 19-5 to the hosts, and the overall margin 25-11.
“I always have confidence in our lads, but no-one was predicting that score,” said Stones afterwards. “York are such a strong side, and the games in recent years have all been close. We’re lucky to have such strength in depth, having players from 41 clubs at our disposal means we can cover missing players quite easily.
“But what can you say when your top players are so keen to play that they drive down from St Andrews to play for you? That was the easiest decision I have had as captain, when Pops offered to play. And given the weather, I was quite happy to shelter under a hedge rather than be out there battling away myself!
“Some of the golf I’ve seen was outstanding. I lost count of how many birdies Matt Evans and Craig Smith made. We just need to push on and make sure we keep this level of performance up against Leeds.”
Sheffield once again have home advantage for their next game, when Leeds visit Abbeydale on Sunday 25th of June, and Stones’s men will be looking to build on their early season advantage.