Continent of Europe has won the St Andrews Trophy after defeating Great Britain and Ireland 15½-9½ to record the team’s biggest ever win in the biennial international match.
Trailing their opponents 7-5 at the start of the second day at Linna Golf in Finland, the Continent of Europe won three of the morning foursomes matches to leave the two teams level at 8-8 going into the second round of singles matches.
The hosts secured 7½ of the 9 points available this afternoon to lift the trophy for the first time since 2012 when they won the match 12½-11½ at Portmarnock. Reflecting on the loss, Craig Watson, Captain of GB&I acknowledged that his side had come up against a roadblock in some stunning and inspired Continental golf.
“The team is obviously very disappointed but if you look at the scoring by the Continent of Europe you can see we were up against a very high standard of golf,” said Watson. “This is the level that the players need to aspire to and achieve and when they look back on the performance there will be many learning points to take away.
“If you are to win a match like this you obviously need to make your fair share of putts when it matters. We just couldn’t match the Continent of Europe today. I don’t think we were complacent.
“The Continent of Europe played outstanding golf and deserve our congratulations. There was a great spirit displayed in the match and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time at this fantastic course.”
Meanwhile Yves Hofstetter, winning Captain of The Continent of Europe couldn’t hide his delight with the manner of his side’s victory.
“I am very pleased with the team’s performance and they showed a lot of character to win the match. We told them yesterday evening that we were very much in the match still and it was up to the players to perform and win the points today. They reacted perfectly and they were really motivated to get the win.
“Great Britain and Ireland played very well and perhaps the winning score doesn’t reflect the margin between the two teams. It felt very close but we are very happy to have won and we look forward to defending the trophy in Wales.”
The story of the day:
In the first match out on the course this afternoon, Matthew Jordan edged GB&I ahead 9-8 after comfortably winning his tie against Edgar Catherine 3&2.
The lead was to be short-lived as Fredrik Nilehn of Sweden resisted a spirited fightback from 2018 Amateur Championship runner-up, Tramore’s Robin Dawson to record a 4&3 victory that included five birdies and an eagle to level the overall score at 9-9.
Sami Valimaki nudged the Continent of Europe closer to the winning post at 10-9 after the Finn impressively defeated Kinsale’s John Murphy 5&3 in a match where he notched up five birdies.
Lorenzo Filippo Scalise and Frederic Lacroix extended their team’s advantage to three points after securing wins in their matches against Nick Poppleton (5&4) and Gian-Marco Petrozzi (4&2) to leave the Continent of Europe 12-9 in front.
Scalise delivered a bogey-free performance which included four birdies, while Lacroix went on a run of five birdies in six holes from the 10th and eventually closed the match out against the Englishman on the16th hole.
It was left to Angel Hidalgo Portillo to clinch the vital point for the Continent of Europe and the Spaniard narrowly beat Todd Clements by one hole to give the home side an unassailable 13-9 lead.
Italy’s Stefano Mazzoli was in blistering form in his match against David Hague, posting no less than eight birdies in a 3&2 success. Marc Hammer and Mitch Waite halved their match shortly after.
Matias Honkala, who holds the course record at Linna Golf (64), completed the Continent of Europe’s record win after overcoming Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell by two holes.
In this morning’s foursomes, Honkala and Valimaki claimed the Continent of Europe’s first point of the second day with a 4&3 win against Jordan and Petrozzi.
Mazzoli and Scalise defeated Hague and Purcell by the same scoreline, which was quickly followed by Hidalgo Portillo and Lacroix defeating Poppleton and Waite 3&2 to give the hosts three points.
Irish duo Dawson and Murphy managed to rescue the remaining point from their foursomes match against Hammer and Nilehn after making birdies on the 15th and 18th to win by two holes.
No doubt that despite the result, those representing GB&I will look back fondly on this experience having forged friendships that will outlast any lingering disappointment.
The 2020 St Andrews Trophy match will take place at Royal Porthcawl from 23–24 July.