England were crowned the 2016 Boys Home International champions after a strong final day performance to defeat the holders Scotland 9-6 in the deciding match at Ballyliffin Golf Club in Donegal.
The win means Derek Hughes’ side regained the trophy they narrowly lost to the same opponents 12 months ago in Wales. England has now won the under-18 team event 15 times in the last 20 years.
The foundations of England’s victory were undoubtedly laid in the morning foursomes when they took a 4-1 lead into lunch. In the top match Matty Lamb and Oliver Clarke set the tone with their 6&5 win over Jamie Stewart and Scottish Boys champion Eric McIntosh.
Although Scotland’s Ben Ferguson and Rory Franssen responded quickly with a 3&2 win against Charlie Strickland and John Gough, England went on to claim the final three foursomes.
As the sun made its first appearance of the week, it meant Scotland required something special in the singles. All afternoon the scoreboard suggested the 2015 champions had an outside chance of overturning the foursomes deficit but it proved to be a bridge too far.
Strickland put in another leading performance in the top match to deny Stewart 4&2. Ferguson then demonstrated Scotland’s battling qualities in the second match. After being two down with eight to play he took Lamb to the 18th and won the final hole to secure a halved match.
McIntosh defeated Gough 3&2 but Clarke responded for England with a narrow one-hole win over Franssen. Darren Howie then replied for Scotland with his one-hole win against Harry Goddard, this year’s SE Group Junior Champion, illustrating the ebb and flow nature of the afternoon.
Hughes’ side edged closer to the magic number when Toby Briggs won 3&1 against Marc Watts, winner of this year’s Paul Lawrie Junior event.
England secured the winning point when Callum Farr was dormie two up on Sam Locke playing the 17th and halved the hole in par to win his match 2&1 and let the celebrations begin.
“It was a hard fought win, as it always is against Scotland,” said England Captain Derek Hughes.
“We always seem to have a good tight match. Winning the foursomes 4-1 proved decisive. Some of those pairings have done very well this week - Matty (Lamb) and Ollie (Clarke) for example.
“In many ways I’m satisfied with the result after last year when we were up in the foursomes but lost the singles to lose overall. That demonstrates how close the matches are between us. Everyone played their part this week and that’s very satisfying.”
In the lower order, English Boys Open Amateur Stroke Play champion Angus Flanagan halved with Graeme Greer, while Michael Lawrie, son of the 1999 Champion Golfer of the Year Paul, defeated Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of European Tour player Matt, by one hole.
Matthew McCulloch added a point for Scotland with his 5&3 win over Daniel O’Laughlin in the bottom match as the singles ended 5-5.
“It was a tough afternoon, the boys really battled hard,” commented Scotland Captain Scott Knowles. “Unfortunately we left ourselves too much to do after losing the foursomes 4-1. With nine holes to go we still had a chance, our boys threw everything at them but they held us off and congratulations to England.”
Hosts Ireland had a difficult week but finished on a high by winning their singles matches 9-1 against Wales to turn the 3-2 foursomes deficit into an 11-4 win.
Irleand Captain Cathal McConn said, “We went out today intent on winning. The lads knew they didn’t play to their full potential against England or Scotland. Even though we lost the foursomes today, we quickly stamped our authority in the singles and went on to win comprehensively.”
In recent years Wales have struggled in the foursomes but Chris King’s young players came to the fore to record a rare win in the alternate shots format. Ireland took the top two matches but Billy Truman and Luke Harries were inspired with their 8&6 victory over Cameron Raymond and Alan Fahy. Harry Frazer and Aled Greville (2&1) and Liam Pritchard and Jacob Davies (4&2) also won for Wales.
However, the singles proved a one-sided affair. Jacob secured the only point of the afternoon for Wales when the South Wales Boys Champion defeated Fahy 2&1.
“We played very well in the foursomes but this afternoon Ireland came out and played very well,” said Wales Captain Chris King. “We made some mistakes but on a positive note we had some of our younger players competing well at this level. It bodes well for some of our younger players.”
Next year England will defend their Boys Home Internationals title on home soil at St Annes Old Links in Lancashire.