Ireland struggled as England and Scotland come out on top on day one at Boys Home Internationals in Wales.
England opened the defence of their title with a dominant 10.5-4.5 win over Wales at Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Club while Scotland also enjoyed opening day success, defeating Ireland 10-5.
Strong, gusting winds at the North Wales venue meant birdies were harder to come by and a premium was placed on club selection and accuracy as players negotiated the tight gorse-lined fairways.
Derek Hughes’ England side are seeking their fourth Boys Home Internationals title in five years and after they came through a difficult morning foursomes session 3-2, their experience told in the singles, which they won 7.5-2.5.
The top match became the pivotal tie of the foursomes when the in-form Marco Penge and Jamie Li were pushed all the way by Ben Chamberlain and Tom Williams. However, the Welsh challenge unravelled on the 18th with a lost ball off the tee followed by Chamberlain firing his approach out of bounds beyond the final green.
Penge, winner of the Peter McEvoy Trophy, Scottish Open Stroke Play and Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters, went on to dominate his singles encounter with Williams and defeated his Welsh opponent 4&3 in the top match in a round containing three birdies and just one dropped shot.
“It was very windy and gusting at 40-50mph,” said Penge. “I was playing against a good player in Tom Williams and knew I had to play well to beat him. I had one bogey and three birdies (in the singles). I picked up birdies at the ninth, 10th and 12th, a nice run around the turn. I was also three up through six and managed to keep things steady from there. I hit fairways and greens and did what I had to do to win.”
Chamberlain redeemed himself with an impressive 7&5 win over Harry Hall. Wales’ lead player this week picked up five birdies in all, including four in five holes from the 10th courtesy of some great putting. “I played great in difficult conditions,” said the Welshman. “I managed to make birdies at the fourth, seventh, ninth, 10th, 11th and 13th. I putted really well and it was a nice way to bounce back after the disappointment of losing the morning foursomes.”
Other positives for hosts Wales came with Matthew Harris’ 3&2 win in the bottom match against Matty Lamb and Jordan Golley’s hard fought halved match with Li in the middle order.
Hughes said, “It was a very tough day for all the teams. I thought the players did very well in how they handled the conditions. We managed to push our way through in the morning foursomes but I was very pleased with how the boys applied themselves in the singles and came out convincing winners. Credit must go to Ben Chamberlain; he was at least five-under-par, maybe six, when he beat Harry Hall. I’ve got some sympathy for Harry.”
For Ireland it was a day of disappointment after they lost the foursomes 3-2 and failed to mount a challenge in the singles despite making a good start.
Scotland’s Sandy Scott and 2014 Junior Open champion Kevin LeBlanc traded blows over the famous Welsh links. However, it was Scott, the Scottish Boys Stroke Play champion, who finished stronger to win the top match 3&1 and set the tone for the afternoon.
Calum Fyfe, who finished runner-up to Scott in the Scottish Boys Stroke Play, and Conor Purcell couldn’t be separated and settled for a halved match before Co Louth’s Thomas Mulligan levelled the early singles tally with a convincing 7&6 win over Niall McMullen.
Peter Kerr was Ireland’s only other singles winner after he defeated Kieran Cantley 3&2, while Andrew Thomson came back from one down with two to play to halve his match with Ireland’s Devin Morley.
Much of Ireland’s undoing came when Scotland reeled off three consecutive wins through Rory Franssen (2&1) and Darren Howie (4&2) before Will Porter’s 3&2 defeat of Alan Fahy in match six secured the opening day win for Scott Knowles’ side.
Scotland also enjoyed a strong finish with Chris Curran’s two-hole win against Marc Norton in the penultimate match and Murray Naysmith’s 5&4 defeat of Cathal Butler in the anchor match. Butler should take credit for calling a penalty on himself and losing a hole when his ball moved on the back nine unbeknown to his opponent.
Scotland Captain Scott Knowles said, “It’s always a hard fought battle against Ireland. There wasn’t much between the teams, a couple of putts here and there. The boys played really well this afternoon, kept to the game plan and it‘s nice to start with a win. We play Wales tomorrow and will need to push on again. Wales will be a tough match, playing on home turf and they’ll be hurting from their defeat to England.”
England take on Ireland today, while Wales will look to bounce back against Scotland.