WINNING LINE-UP: Terry Casey (left) and Graham Walker (right) are pictured with the players, from left: Nick Marsh (Huddersfield), Ben Stow (Rushmore), Ashley Chesters (Hawkstone Park), and Paul Howard
By David Birtill
Southport’s Paul Howard played his part as an England team of champions held off a charging Spanish side to score their sixth victory in the European Nations Cup at La Reserva, Sotogrande.
The S&A man, along with Ashley Chesters, Nick Marsh and Ben Stow – all champions in their own right – edged home one shot clear of the hosts, Spain.
England coach Graham Walker said: “With a few holes to play the tournament was tight. We needed a big finish and the team responded in great fashion.
“Ashley Chesters, the double European amateur champion, birdied the 15th and then parred in. Ben Stow, the Brabazon champion, eagled 15, birdied 16 and then parred in.”
Meanwhile, Howard, who was first to finish, had gone straight back on to the course to caddy for Marsh over the last few holes, underlining the side’s strong team spirit. Marsh is the English amateur champion and Howard has just added the New South Wales amateur championship to the 2014 South American amateur title.
The competition was played in cool weather and very testing winds, particularly on the first day when gusts of up to 35 km per hour delayed play. However, England had prepared thoroughly and, with the players holing out impressively on the fast, sloping greens, the team were straight into the mix.
They were second after the first round, four shots behind Ireland, and took the lead after 36 holes – and refused to be dislodged, despite Spain’s efforts.
At the halfway stage, Spain were in third place, six shots back. After three rounds they were in second place, having narrowed the gap to four, helped by sub-par scores from two players. Conditions were such that there were only nine rounds below par during the tournament, from a total of 256 played.
The Spanish team kept up the challenge in the final round but England’s impressive finish kept the team at the top of the leaderboard and saw them regain the trophy. Their triumph gives England their fifth win in seven years, with previous successes in 2013, 2011, 2010 and 2009. The team also won in 2004.
Team manager Terry Casey commented: “This was a true team effort in a really tough week. The golf course was playing at its most challenging and rounds were taking six hours and more.
“Our lads prepared exceptionally well and showed a truly professional attitude throughout the week, so that when things looked bleak on the course we held together to post scores that kept us in the hunt. Graham, as usual, did a wonderful job in preparing the players and filling the role of on-course adviser.”
The best three scores from four counted on each day of the championship. Leading final positions: 1 England 897; 2 Spain 898; 3 France 902; 4 Ireland 904.
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