Defending champions Ireland got off to a winning start with a 10-5 victory over Wales on the opening day of the Boys Home Internationals at Western Gailes Golf Club while England came through a typically tough encounter to deny Scotland 8.5-6.5, writes the R&A.
Roy Archibald’s young side arrived at the Ayrshire venue as champions after winning the team trophy at Forest Pines in Lincolnshire 12 months ago. And though Ireland were favourites against Wales, they are likely to face a sterner test against Scotland on day two with England to take on Chris King’s Wales side.
Day 1 scores - Ireland 10 Wales 5
“I’m delighted with the start, especially after the disappointment of the recent European Championships,” said Archibald. “We selected a very young team this week, eight of the 11 players are available for selection again next year and two (Thomas Mulligan and Owen Crooks) are only 15.
”It was almost like starting again after the win last year, but I’m glad the younger lads are getting the experience. Today’s win was important and I thought winning the foursomes 4-1 was key, especially with the two lads coming through at the back,” added Archibald, referring to the one-hole win by Mulligan and Crooks over Tim Harry and Kyle Harman.
In recent years Wales have struggled to gain any momentum in the foursomes and a similar scenario unfolded again. Junior Open champion Kevin LeBlanc, playing alongside Kerry’s Tommy O’Driscoll in the top match, set down an early marker and enjoyed a resounding 7 and 6 win over Jack Davidson and Thomas Williams.
Gaelen Trew and Thomas Froom ensured Ireland didn’t have it all their own way in the foursomes when they defeated Conor Purcell and Jamie Fletcher 2 and 1.
Ireland opted for experience in the singles top order, which had the desired effect as the likes of LeBlanc, James Sugrue and Rowan Lester all won.
“The wind picked up in the afternoon and the key was playing par golf and not making any silly mistakes. I got ahead early in the match and managed to keep in front,” said LeBlanc, who narrowly defeated Davidson on the 18th after the Welsh teenager had a difficult day on the greens.
It was a much closer result between England and Scotland before Derek Hughes’ men prevailed on a difficult but pristine links course.
England edged the morning foursomes 3-2 when Marco Penge and Harry Hall came through with the decisive point after defeating Calum Fyfe and Niall McMullen 2 and 1.
There were comprehensive wins for the Scottish pair of Ewen Ferguson and Murray Naysmith as they claimed the top foursomes tie 5 and 4 against Haydn McCullen and Jamie Dick, while England’s Ashton Turner, making this third appearance in the event, alongside Jake Storey won 4 and 3 against George Burns and Ryan Lumsden in the bottom foursomes match.
New Scottish captain Scott Knowles put his leading players at the top of the singles and Ferguson and Robert MacIntyre both came through with their respective wins over Matty Lamb (3 and 2) and McCullen (two holes).
However, England dominated the middle order as the next four matches went their way. Although Scotland’s Adam Fisher enjoyed a fine 5 and 4 win over Hall, the overall result was secured for England when Storey won 6 and 5 against Fyfe.
“Another good contest, as it always is between England and Scotland,” said Hughes, noting the performances of Storey and Jonathan Thomson.
“I’m pleased for Jake, it was a good win in this, his last event before he heads to the States which means he will miss the Boys Amateur Championship (played at Prestwick and Dundonald Links) next week. Jonathan also battled well to come back and finish all-square against Niall McMullen.
“All in all a good start and played in the right spirit, which is important,” added Hughes.