Stoke march on in national competition

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Stoke-by-Naylands’ men’s team remain in the hunt in the Mail on Sunday Golf Classic 
after beating The Essex in an entertaining fourth round tie.

The competition — with five players from each side playing single matches with full handicap allowance, to a maximum of 18 — is one of the largest golf club team events in the world, attracting around 25,000 golfers per year and culminating with a trip to Spain for the last four remaining teams.

Stoke booked their place at the halfway stage with a 3.5-1.5 home victory in near-perfect golfing conditions.

Ian Benson got the hosts off to a good strart with a 2&1 victory against Simon Babbs, the latter having been 1up at the turn before Benson won four out of the next five holes.

The Essex levelled after John O’Neil sealed a 3&1 win in a fiercely-contested battle with Trevor Warren before Martin Cotton put in the standout performance of the day against Matt Brown.

Some stunning golf did not allow his opponent to win a hole, producing nine pars and a birdie before ending the match a 7&6 winner and putting Stoke one point away from victory.

In the fourth match, Stoke’s Shaun Underwood was soon 2dn to Laurence Parr and did well to hang on 1dn by the 10th.

Meanwhile, the fifth and final game was also proving to be to a humdinger, with the hosts’ Tim Dickens playing Danny Riley-Bourne, a near scratch golfer, with the pair separated by one hole in favour of Dickens.

As the scores lay, it was likely that the victor of the final match would determine the winning team.

A mistake on the 11th fairway cost Underwood the hole and a grateful Parr went 2up before the 12th and 13th halved.

Underwood produced some gritty golf with pars on the 14th, 15th and 16th to leave Underwood 1dn with two to play.

Dickens produced some wonderful golf to win the 10th, 12th and 13th to move to 3up on Riley-Bourne, the 14th and 15th were halved with Dickens only requiring to hold his nerve over the closing holes.

Underwood was first to putt for birdie on the 17th just outside of 15 foot, with Parr’s 13ft chance sliding by the cup to leave the match level.

With Dickens’ tee shot perfectly placed on the 16th fairway, he hit a fabulous second shot into the green and two-putted his way to victory, winning 4&2, never looking like losing against his very talented opponent.

The news filtered down 
to the 18th tee, with Underwood and Parr shaking hands and agreeing to halve their match.

The team spirit and camaraderie between both sets of players and supporters was commendable all day.