Lancs player Clarke shines as England win Boys’ Home Internationals

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 with Lancashire County player  Oliver Clarke, from Hillside, playing a leading role.

The win means Derek Hughes’ side regained the trophy they narrowly lost to the same opponents 12 months ago in Wales. “Everyone played their part this week and that’s very satisfying,” said the team captain.

“It was a hard fought win, as it always is against Scotland. We always seem to have a good tight match and winning the foursomes 4-1 proved decisive.”

England has now won the under-18 team event 15 times in the last 20 years.

The foundations of England’s victory were laid in the morning foursomes when they took a 4-1 lead into lunch. In the top match Hexham’s Matty Lamb and  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 claimed the final three foursomes with wins from Toby Briggs and Dan O’Loughlin; Alex Fitzpatrick (Hallamshire) and Callum Farr; and Michael Gilbert and Harry Goddard.

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 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 Briggs won 3&1 against Marc Watts, winner of this year’s Paul Lawrie Junior event.

England secured the winning point when 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.

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 Fitzpatrick, brother of European Tour player Matt, by one hole.

Matthew McCulloch added a point for Scotland with his 5&3 win over O’Laughlin in the bottom match as the singles ended 5-5.  

Scotland captain Scott Knowles said: “It was a tough afternoon, the boys really battled hard. 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.”

In the day’s other match the hosts Ireland 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.

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