Malone Golf Club are the 2022 AIG All-Ireland Women’s Senior Foursomes champions after a thrilling battle with near-neighbours Belvoir Park, while Greystones outlasted Headfort in a war of attrition to capture the AIG Women’s Challenge Cup.
Both senior sides named unchanged lineups from their semi-final wins over Roscommon Golf Club and Elm Park respectively, and it was evident from early on that it would go down to the wire.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals were started in glorious sunshine at PGA National Slieve Russell, but the heavens opened early and relentlessly on Sunday to the extent that standing water had to be swept off the greens as the pairings were coming down the closing stretch.
Though Belvoir’s Anna Lindsay and Jennifer Gibson put in a dominant display to take the second match over Louise Coffey and Maeve Toner, it always looked as though the lead pairings of Siobhan Greene and Sara O’Sullivan against Gail Linton and Holly Hamilton would be decisive as it was balanced on a knife-edge throughout.
The Malone pairing never led until going one-up on the 15th, but were reeled in on the next before regaining the upper-hand on the penultimate hole. Two holes back, Paula Metcalfe and Rachel Taylor had enjoyed a four-up lead after 12 holes, but that lead was reduced to two after 14 and they traded the next two holes to carry a two-up lead to the 17th tee.
Up ahead, a massive drive from Hamilton gave Linton the opportunity to go for the green in two at the par-5 18th, and her fairway wood crawled onto the front edge, but O’Sullivan and Greene were well placed in three and the Belvoir Park partnership couldn’t get down in two from approximately 50 feet, ensuring the final swing of the pendulum went Malone’s way.
Back on 17, a half on either of the closing holes would clinch in for Malone, and when Violet McBride and Olivia Chandler were unable to convert their long birdie putt, Paula Metcalfe had one of her own that she knocked stiff to seal a first Senior Foursomes triumph for the Antrim club.
Afterwards, Malone team captain Sue McFall was understandably delighted with her side’s performance. “Personally, I’m absolutely delighted for the team and I know that each and every one of them are ecstatic. The matches, all of them, including the run-up through Ulster, were almost all really close so I’m just so delighted that we could pull it out in really difficult conditions.”
With heavy rain expected, though perhaps not quite the deluge that transpired, McFall commended on Golf Ireland’s decision to play both semi-finals on Saturday. “I’m very happy that we got in,” she said, because I’m not sure we’d have been able to get finished if we were only going out now.”
With the clubs situated within four miles of each other, there is naturally a lot of familiarity in both camps. “We would know of most of them, and they would know most of us – certainly the low [handicapped] ones would – and some of us are actually quite good friends with the Belvoir girls, so it was all played in a great spirit, which you would expect, but I am absolutely gutted for them because they played so well and are such lovely girls, but there can only be one winner and thankfully it was us.”
Metcalfe and Taylor, the pairing that earned the winning point, were unaware of how the match in front was going, as they came to closing stages of their own. “We didn’t really know how it was going,” Metcalfe admitted, “but we knew that they were on the 18th when we were playing 16 because we saw them going up 18, but we just said we’re in control of our match so all we can do is concentrate on this and hope for the best.”
While Malone and Belvoir Park were celebrating and licking their wounds respectively, Greystones and Headfort were battling it out for the AIG Challenge Cup a few holes behind.
Greystones team manager Iris Haughton made two changes to the side that beat Belvoir Park in the semi-final with Celine Joyce and Wendy Lee replacing Patricia Moore and Regina Connaughton, while Headfort’s Marian Geoghegan stuck with the lineup that beat Tipperary the previous day.
Despite Ellen Castles posting a comprehensive eight-and-seven victory for the Meath club, Greystones edged the closer-fought ties and that was enough to give them the requisite cushion at the end as Anne Browner and Grace Dodd got victories on board before Celine Joyce got the all-important third point for the Wicklow side.
Speaking afterwards, Haughton couldn’t hide her delight at what was a steely performance from her side. “I’m over the moon,” she said, “We have such a close-knit team and it was literally just the seven of them, the caddies and ourselves, but so many supporters turned up and really pushed us on as it was coming down to the wire. But it’s a lot more stressful being the team manager.”
The conditions were a factor, of course, and this was not lost on Haughton. “I feel sorry for the players in some ways because it was an endurance test, it wasn’t really golf, and it was literally whoever could play the best of the worst golf.”
Haughton was part of the management team that captured the Challenge Cup in 2014, albeit in an asistant’s capacity, but the personnel are very different this time around. “These are a lot of the ‘get into golf’ ladies, one of whom went from 54 and is now off 24 [handicap], and she holed the winning putt yesterday from six feet on the 18th.”
Haughton also paid tribute to the caddies who accompanied the players in the pouring rain. “A lot of the girls are new to golf so the caddies were very important out there to help keep them going. One of the caddies was a player’s son, and he actually heard on Thursday evening that he’d been accepted to his first-choice college course and he spent the weekend down here helping us instead of celebrating with his friends.”
Celine Joyce, who secured the winning point was one of the remaining members from the 2014 side, though as she alluded afterwards, there was still some unfinished business to be taken care of. “It might not have been my finest golf out there today, but it was just so tough that you had to struggle on through it. I was actually on the team that won in 2014 but I didn’t win my match in the final that day but I won my match today so I was delighted to put that right.”
AIG Women’s Senior Foursomes Final Results
Malone 2 – 1 Belvoir Park (Malone names first): Siobhan Greene and Sara O’Sullivan beat Gail Linter and Holly Hamilton 1UP, Louise Coffey and Maeve Toner lost to Jennifer Gibson and Anna Lindsay 6&5, Paula Metcalfe and Rachel Taylor beat Violet McBride and Olivia Chandler 2&1
AIG women’s Challenge Cup Final Results
Headfort 1.5 – 3.5 Greystones (Headfort names first): Mary Farrelly lost to Anne Browner 1UP, Mary Bowler lost to Celine Joyce 1UP, Elaine Duffy halved with Orla Rush, Ellen Castles beat Wendy Lee 8&7, Regina Tevlin lost to Grace Dodd 3&2
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