North Berwick win first Winter League title
North Berwick held off a worthy challenge from visitors Musselburgh on Sunday to claim the Matthew Black trophy and the title of East Lothian Winter League champions for the first time ever.
The match looked to be in the balance early in the day, but Torquil McInroy and Craig Wright birdied the 9th to move ahead for the hosts, then produced solid golf into a strong east wind to run out 2/1 winners. And the home team soon doubled their advantage when sub-par golf from Weston Main and Kevin Messer proved too good for Myles Clapperton and Scott Greig.
At that point North Berwick looked certain to secure at least the draw they needed to lift the title. But there was drama to come. The top tie arrived at the eighteenth tee all square, but the home pairing contrived to bogey the short par-4 and hand the point to Musselburgh’s Calum Burgess and Ken Davidson. Then a few minutes later there was a repeat performance when North Berwick’s Craig Hardie, having squared his match on the sixteenth, watched as his pitch to the final flag went over the green. Hardie and partner Horry Lawson weren’t able to salvage a half and the scores were level.
And suddenly it all looked good for the visitors whose anchor pairing of Andrew Millar and Craig Dewar boarded the sixteenth tee two up.
But there was to be another twist in the tail. Nerves undoubtedly played a part when Millar shanked out of bounds from the fairway to see his side’s lead halved, then Dewar bunkered his approach to the long par 4 17th before North Berwick’s Mike Gray struck a sublime six iron to within a few feet of the hole. The visitors weren’t able to get up and down and the match was level.
So it all came down to the final hole, and Dewar’s tee shot was the better of the two, finishing some twenty yards short of the putting surface with Gray well left. But after Gray’s partner Chris Brown found the centre of the green, the hapless Millar produced a pitch that brought back memories of a certain Hunter Mahan at Celtic Manor. The ball barely reached the front apron, and with the pin set close to the back of the green the visiting duo completed their miserable finish with a three putt from long range, handing the points and the league title to North Berwick.
The result was more than a little disappointing for Musselburgh, for whom even a point would have been gold in their battle to avoid relegation.
Meanwhile there was joy for North Berwick, contesting the first division for the first time this year and whose only previous Winter League success came in the Stroke Play tournament some 25 years ago.Amongst the victorious team Chris Wood claimed a unique distinction. Wood was part of Longniddry’s title winning team last season, and may well be the first player to win in consecutive years with different clubs.