A YOUNG England Under 16 squad earned praise for their gritty play in a narrow defeat to Ireland.
The visitors emerged from two days of tough competition at Norfolk’s Hunstanton Golf Club with a 161/2-131/2 victory.
The win was sweet revenge for Ireland following England’s triumph at Limerick GC a year ago.
But there is much for the England staff and players to build on as they look ahead to the European Team Championships and Home Internationals in 2020 and beyond.
After the first day’s play featuring both foursomes and singles matches, Ireland held a 101/2-71/2 lead.
They were then made to fight all the way with honours even in terms of the 12 singles games on the second day, which produced a 6-6 tie allowing Ireland to claim overall victory.
Ireland’s strength lie particularly in the boys’ section but there was some sparkling golf on show from both countries.
The combined girls’ and boys’ teams had to put up with some treacherous conditions – especially on Sunday when the wind and rain swept into Norfolk and produced some appalling weather for golf.
Yet the standard of play was of a very high standard.
From the boys’ point of view the form of Yorkshire’s Joshua Berry was noteworthy – the 14-year-old managing to claim big singles victories against Joe Byrne and full Irish international Josh Hill – winner of the McGregor Trophy in July – by shooting under-par on both days.
Worcestershire’s Scottish U14 Boys Open Champion Hugh Adams, who was runner-up in the Reid Trophy, in August, also put two points on the board in singles to re-inforce his growing reputation at junior level.
In the girls’ squad, Nelson GC’s Lydia Cryer can also feel justifiably proud of her efforts having won all three games she played.
The Lancashire junior displayed great character to win both her singles matches on the 18th green.
Meanwhile, for the second season in succession Surrey’s Rafiah Banday ended the Irish match unbeaten – winning a foursomes tie and taking one and a half points from the Royal Mid-Surrey teeanger’s two singles games.
Even for those players unable to win full points or simply new to the set-up, there was plenty to admire about the way they coped with exposure to the international scene.
Close House’s Maggie Whitehead’s singles victory over Katie Poots on Sunday will fill the Northumberland-based player with confidence going forward.
Meanwhile, Farnham’s Lottie Woad was three-down with three to play in her singles game against Anna Dawson.
But the reigning Surrey Ladies Amateur Champion – who is just 16 – fought back to earn a half.
Ireland’s Beth Coulter had to come from two-down with two to play to deny Arcot Hall’s Rachel Gourley a point that her overall play perhaps merited.
A birdie on 17 and a fantastic up-and-down on 18 denied glory for Gourley, the second Northumbrian in the England team.
After the conclusion of the autumn round of junior internationals, England’s regional and national squads will meet up for coaching over the winter months at Woodhall Spa, the National Golf Centre, in Lincolnshire.
The juniors will receive one-to-one coaching and advice, which forms part of a personal development plan.
For full results from Hunstanton GC, click here.
Hugh Adams (Hagley GC)
Jack Bigham (Harpenden GC)
Josh Berry (Doncaster GC)
Jack Ingham (Eindhovensche GC)
Harley Smith (Rayleigh GC)
George Durkan (Bishop’s Storford GC)
Thomas Hull (Spalding GC)
Rafiah Banday (Royal Mid Surrey GC)
Ameila Wan (Notts Ladies GC)
Maggie Whitehead (Close House GC)
Lydia Cryer (Nelson GC)
Rachel Gourley (Arcot Hall GC)
Lottie Woad (Farnham GC)