Yorkshire golf: Middle men get business done as Yorkshire retain title

Yorkshire with captain Darryl Berry, far left, pictured after their win over Lancashire that sealed successive Northern Counties League title wins (Picture: Chris Stratford).
Yorkshire with captain Darryl Berry, far left, pictured after their win over Lancashire that sealed successive Northern Counties League title wins (Picture: Chris Stratford).
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WHEN it came to the business of retaining the Northern Counties League title, by obtaining a win over Lancashire at Lindrick, Yorkshire’s captain Darryl Berry felt middle men would be crucial.

So it proved as Hallamshire’s Alex Fitzpatrick and Will Whiteoak, of Shipley – playing No 6 and No 7 respectively – produced singles wins that saw the likelihood of a home victory swell from possible to probable.

English men’s amateur title holder Dan Brown (Masham), Yorkshire champion Ben Hutchinson (Howley Hall) and Hull’s Steve Robins had already given the hosts an edge following a 3-3 share of the morning foursomes.

When Welsh Open Youths champion Bailey Gill then complemented the wins of Fitzpatrick and Whiteoak with a victory of his own on his home course, Berry and the Yorkshire executive’s planning meant just a half point was needed. Wheatley’s Ben Brewster secured that by going dormie two up at 16, and Yorkshire knew the title would remain in their hands.

“Will Whiteoak is never happy playing that far down the order, “said Berry, “but I told him, ‘you are there for a reason.

“If anything goes wrong at the top end and it all goes wrong with the bottom end, you are there to steady the ship and give us some more points in the middle’. It was the same with Alex (being at No 6) and obviously he is a very good player. This year he has excelled.”

Brewster converted his unbeatable position into a win, Malton & Norton’s David Hague secured a half, and Ilkley’s Jack Lampkin chalked up a closing victory that inflated the margin of victory to 11.5-6.5.

“There is no better No 12 in the country than Jack, as I have said before,” said Berry. “Time and time again he comes in with a win.”

Heavy rain fell for the majority of both morning and afternoon sessions and Berry was impressed by how his side dealt with the conditions.

“It was not nice out there,” he said. “I was feeling for the players because they weren’t able to strike the ball like they normally want to.

“With water on the ball and the clubface it was a bit sloppy and you can’t really get the reaction of the ball you want, and they had to think more and to dig in more.

“I spoke to a few guys at the back end who seemed a little bit down and I just said, ‘keep it simple because they will make more mistakes than you if you just keep it simple, keep it on the short stuff’.

“The faith I have in these guys is unquestionable; I knew they could do it in the singles.”

That faith is reciprocated by the level of the players’ trust in their captain, and they responded to his wise, timely and appropriate counsel with excellent individual displays that make them such a formidable team.

“I try to relate information to them all the time and that is a good thing about having a buggy as I can get to all the places I need to quite quickly,” said Berry, who has a canny knack of getting to the right place and player at the right time.

He also ensures he always gives credit where it is due, even if a player has been unable to put a point on the board despite his best efforts.

Fulford’s James Cass, for instance, battled back to all square from five down only to lose by one hole, but his display did not go unnoticed.

“James Cass had a bit of a tough start because the guy he was up against was three or four under through seven,” said Berry. “James was playing all right and he was four down, but he never stopped battling.”

He also highlighted the commitment of Rotherham’s Jamie Harrison who, despite the disappointment of not being picked for the final battle, turned up to support the team.

“Jamie unfortumately didn’t get selected even though his match play record is fantastic,” said Berry, “and yet he was here to caddie and he has shown his face all day.

“That is an example of the team spirit that has helped us so much.

“My main goal is not to win tournament after tournament, but to keep Yorkshire going as a team and as a spirit, and I hope that is what I do.

“I have always been around teams and I love the team environment. I try to instil in these guys that golf is an individual sport, but if you have got guys around you who can help you now and then it gives you that little bit of a lift.”

The celebrations had scarcely got underway before Berry and the Yorkshire executive curtailed them to meet to consider their next task – selecting a six-man line-up for the English men’s county championship finals at Sandwell Park at the end of the month.