YORKSHIRE are English men’s county champions for the 22nd time after grasping the crown by the smallest possible margin of half a game point at Aldeburgh.
Following wins over Lincolnshire and Berks, Bucks & Oxon, captain Darryl Berry’s men fought out a 4.5-4.5 draw with Gloucestershire in Sunday’s title showdown in Suffolk.
With honours shared in their encounter Yorkshire triumphed overall with 16 match points to Gloucestershire’s 15.5.
Berry’s men had accumulated the decisive advantage on the first day when they beat Lincolnshire 6.5-2.5 and Berry commented: “I knew that half point could matter.”
They followed up with Saturday’s 5-4 win over BB&O, while Gloucestershire also won both their opening matches to set up Sunday’s grand finale.
Yorkshire shared the morning foursomes as Gloucestershire, who at one point were down in all three games, showed great grit.
Malton & Norton’s David Hague and Ben Hutchinson (Howley Hall) were two under when completing a 6&5 win, but Gloucestershire’s Mitch Waite and Joe Long managed to draw level with newly crowned Yorkshire champion Sam Rook and his Lindrick club-mate Bailey Gill with a 16th-hole birdie and brought in a half point.
Lewis Hollingworth (Rotherham) and Sam Bairstow (Hallowes) had been one up after 14 in the final match, but Nick Day and Alex Ireland rallied to win two up.
Hague did everything that Berry would have asked of him in the top singles, racing to a five-hole lead by the turn on England international team-mate Waite and went on to triumph 4&3.
Former Yorkshire county champion Hutchinson succumbed 3&2 to Joe Harvey as parity was restored, heightening the tension.
Gloucestershire’s Long won an epic battle against fellow England player Gill when he holed a 10ft birdie putt on the 18th, but Bairstow withstood a determined challenge from Day over the closing holes for a one-up win.
The final two games were split with Gloucestershire’ Jake Phillips winning 2&1 against Rook, while 16-year-old Ben Schmidt, playing in the anchor role, won 3&2.
The result produced a special double for Schmidt – and for Yorkshire – for the teenager was also a member of the winning team at English Boys’ County Championship earlier this season.
Berry said of his team: “I’m so proud of them. People don’t understand how hard this is, it’s an endurance test as well as golf. But they have got their reward and that’s all that matters.”
In the day’s other match Lincolnshire ended the championship on a high after they defeated BB&O 5-4 for their first win of the week and played their way into third place overall.