DORSET saved the best to last, with victory in their final match, to salvage some pride at this year’s South West Week at a windswept Cumberwell Park.
Although an 8-6 win over hosts Wiltshire wasn’t enough for captain Giles Legg to hand back the wooden spoon, it was just reward for their dogged determination.
“I’m so pleased with the team’s response,” Legg told the Daily Echo. “It would have been easy for them to let their heads drop after losing the first four matches.
“But they kept coming back for more and fully deserved their success.
“The average age of the team is probably the lowest it has been for a very long time. Hopefully they will thrive on the experience and grow as a team.”
Legg’s optimism is shared by Doug Pratt, the county’s only English Counties Championship-winning captain.
Pratt, who guided Dorset to national glory in 1992, said: “We now have five or six young players who seem to have the desire to succeed. Their attitude is excellent and they care about their golf.
“But they must get their handicaps down. They need to be off plus two to enter most national events.
“Only when they’re competing at that level will they reach their full potential.”
Among the county’s brightest hopes is 18-year-old Harry Mitchell who has entered the English Amateur Championship (Brabazon Trophy) later this month.
Mitchell was also selected by the South West Counties captains to represent Dorset in the region’s annual match against the Midlands in October.
Mitchell and Legg, whose two-year tenure of the captaincy ends this season, played a leading role in Dorset’s final flourish.
Losing 4½ to 3½ after the morning singles, Dorset needed to win two and draw one of the afternoon foursomes to break their duck.
Legg and Mitchell were up against the club owner’s son Alistair James and Ben Amor who raced into a four-hole lead after 10 holes.
With two wins already in the bag, it was down to Legg and Mitchell to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the last match on the course.
Against all the odds, the Ferndown double act levelled the match with three holes remaining and completed the remarkable turn-around by winning the 17th and 18th for a two-up victory.
“We managed to get our putts in first when it mattered,” said Legg. “It was a great end to the week and has given everyone a confidence boost ahead of our final three South East League matches.”
Wiltshire’s hopes of winning the matchplay trophy evaporated when they lost to Cornwall in the penultimate round of matches on Thursday, while Dorset were condemned to last place following their 9-5 defeat against Devon.
Among the county’s leading young guns was Tom Robson (Weymouth) who won four, drew two and lost three matches on an impressive South West debut.
Newly-crowned county champion Sonny Wilkinson (Ferndown), 19, also impressed with two wins and three draws, while two of the more mature players Tom Peacock (Parkstone) and Tom Leech (Ferndown) both chalked up four wins each.
Somerset, meanwhile, drew 7-7 with title rivals Gloucestershire on the final day to win the inter-counties matchplay crown.