By Tom Clarke
Cheshire golfers Sheila McDonald and Pam Wiseley birdied their way to victory in the 2014 Grand Final of the PING Women’s Fourball Betterball at Gainsborough Golf Club in Lincolnshire.
Pam chipped in once and Sheila holed from off the green as the Houldsworth pair amassed three birdies on their way to 43 points, and a one-point win in the competition.
Their win was especially sweet because they came sixth in this event in 2011 and longed to do better. “We said it would be just brilliant if we could win it,” said Sheila. “We have such a tiny ladies’ section, of just 26 women, that it’s fantastic.”
Pam, who is ladies’ captain for the second time, added: “We’re not getting any younger so to do something like this at our age is a dream come true!” They topped a packed leaderboard with the remaining prizes decided by countback.
Three pairs scored 42 points and the runners-up were Debbie Birtwistle and Emma Kight of Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire; third place was taken by Zoe Hartley and Charlotte Heath of West End, Halifax; and fourth went to Samantha Steward and Jane Gurney-Read of Weston Park, Norfolk.
Fifth place was claimed by Lorna Morris and Mechell Di Matteo of Kilworth Springs, Leicestershire who scored 41 points, while defending champions Denise Page and Sarah Dawson of Willow Valley, Yorkshire, were sixth on the same score.
The PING Fourball Betterball attracted an initial entry this year of about 16,000 women from over 900 clubs, which is a tournament record. The top 60 pairs in the country qualified for today’s Grand Final while the next 60 pairs went through to yesterday’s Plate Final. Over the two days, the handicaps of the players ranged from scratch to 34 and the pairings included identical twins, mothers and daughters, and a mother and daughter-in-law.
One player took on the Grand Final challenge alone after her partner was unwell. Rebecca Watkin of Castle Eden in County Durham didn’t want to miss the day and she did herself proud with 35 points on her own account, beating almost half the field!
The age range was wide, starting with today’s youngest competitor, 12-year-old Charlotte Heath of West End in Yorkshire. Her partner, Zoe Hartley praised her play – which helped them in to third place – and said: “It’s the first time our club has entered and we’ve had a really, really good day. We’ve loved it.”
Most competitors wore their club colours and the most used word at registration was ‘Wow!’ when all the finalists were presented with a PING golf bag. The Grand Finalists also received a pair of Ecco shoes and a voucher for PING Collection clothing, as part of their goody bag. “Can I kiss you now?” joked one competitor as she signed in for the Grand Final. “It’s Christmas come early!”
In addition there are also prizes for the leading six pairs on each day, with the winners of both finals each receiving goods to the value of £400. The winners of all club rounds each received a PING umbrella and the runners-up won a PING towel. New champion Sheila commented: “This competition is really nice, there aren’t a lot of things for women and it’s brilliant that PING and England Golf do this – and the prizes are fantastic.