Just champion, ladies!
BY CHRIS STRATFORD
Captain Maggie Katz ended Northern Counties Match Week exhausted but elated as Yorkshire produced a clean sweep at Alnmouth to retain their title. The effort put into the squad's preparations bore maximum dividends as all five of their opponents were beaten, Lancashire, Northumberland and Cumbria all 6-3, Cheshire 6.5-2.5 and Durham 7.5-1.5. “All the work that we did in the winter, when we concentrated on chipping and putting, and the work we did on foursomes pairings paid off. In training whenever we went out on the course we always tried foursomes pairings, even if it was only for nine holes,” rejoiced Katz. “The week was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.” Although coaching sessions were restricted due to COVID, Katz says there was plenty of time devoted to honing shots “from 50, 75 and 100 yards in”. A scratch match against Ganton's finest, including former British ladies champion Emma Brown, helped solidify the ideas for potential pairings while coach Lysa <CORRECT> Jones combed through rivals' results to assess both their foursomes combinations and in what order they were used. It was such attention to detail, allied to excellent golf from Yorkshire immediately the starting pistol was fired, that put them on course to overall triumph. The defeat of fierce rivals Lancashire on day one was crucial with the Red Rose ultimately finishing runners-up after winning all their remaining matches. White Rose champion Nicola Slater (Lindrick) led the way for Katz's team with six wins and a tie as she played in all but one of the 10 match sessions. She and Woodsome Hall's Lily Hirst teamed up to gain three victories in their four matches in the foursomes. Hirst also amassed six wins and there were five each from Debs Henery <CORRECT> (Hickleton), Melissa Wood (Woodsome Hall) and Hannah Holden (Huddersfield). Rudding Park's Evie Cooke won all three matches in which she featured. “It was one of my best weeks ever,” continued Katz. “You look at the trophy and see Yorkshire have won it a large number of times and you do feel sorry for the people that haven’t managed it, and some past captains who have maybe missed out by a half. I was so lucky because it was so comfortable.” Eventually, maybe, but she admitted to sleeping poorly at the start of the week before Yorkshire's excellent mixture of experience and rising young talent kept winning to ease her difficulties in getting to sleep. “There are loads of youngsters who are sort of snapping at the heels of our experienced players,” said Katz. “It is great that someone like Nicola Slater, who is my champion this year, will still take time out and sit down to give tips on the greens and things like that. All the experienced players do that and it really works for us because the senior players become mentors and that’s great.” Huddersfield's Rachel Taylor, Mia Eales-Smith (Lindrick), Beth Norton (The Oaks) and Amy Staveley (Ganton) also made valuable contributions to point Yorkshire towards a place in the English finals at Denham, in Buckinghamshire, in September.