LEEDS moved up to second place in the Yorkshire Inter-District Union League after beating 2014 champions York in a match that captain Nigel McKee described as “absolutely crazy”.
In his second year in charge of the side, McKee has emphasised to his players the need to improve on last season’s performances in the opening foursomes sessions when Leeds invariably placed themselves at a disadvantage going into the afternoon’s 12 singles matches.
At Woolley Park they showed the message had been received loud and clear as they led 11-1 at lunch, Waterton Park’s Damien Simpson and Andy Stringer (Wakefield) halving while the other five pairings all won.
But York staged a remarkable comeback, winning the top five singles matches before eventually succumbing 21-15, allowing McKee’s heart-rate to slow back to normal.
“The way the foursomes went I was thinking we were going to get 30-odd points,” said McKee, “and then it just didn’t progress.
“I was around at the 11th hole in the afternoon and I was asking each player, ‘how are you going?’.
“We were down in six games, only up in four and halving two and I thought, ‘this is going to be tight if we are not careful’.
“It was just potty. The kid who played Simon Coumbe started eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie. Crazy.”
McKee’s palpitations might have been even greater, but for him urging Wike Ridge’s Sam Morrison to ‘do a Jean van de Velde’ at the 17th hole in his match alongside Ben Firth (Moortown).
Frenchman van de Velde famously blew his chance for an outright win in the 1999 Open at Carnoustie when he waded into the Barry Burn in front of the final green rather than taking a penalty drop.
Firth’s shot to the 17th at Woolley Park found water – and McKee told Morrison to take off his right shoe and sock and play the ball as it lay.
Morrison did so, hit a nine iron onto the green and the pair closed out the match.
“The ball was partially submerged. It was a fantastic shot, unbelievable,” enthused McKee. “At that point I think they were only one up and they’ve ended up winning the match, so it was decisive really.”
The drama had begun before play began when Cookridge Hall’s Adam Frontal texted McKee to say he had been sick throughout the night.
Six players had already had to pull out of the match so Frontal played – and won his foursomes match with club-mate and debutant Tom Pilling.
Sand Moor’s Andy Rishworth, who partnered McKee during the latter’s playing days while still in his teens, won both his matches, as did Oulton Hall’s Ryan Beach, who impressed in only his second match for Leeds.
Beach won his foursomes with Nathan Ali (Cookridge Hall) and beat Fulford’s Matty Roberts in the singles.
“We would never have lived it down if we had lost that match after being 11-1 up at lunch,” said relieved McKee.
“Just to beat York is great. It puts us second in the league. I am absolutely delighted. We have improved on last year and are still in with a shout of the title. Sheffield have four out of four, but it’s still all to play for.”
Leeds’ foursomes winners were Coumbe and Daz Walton (Pontefract), Firth and Morrison, Frontal and Pilling, Tom North and Rishworth, and Beach and Ali.
Singles wins were returned by Pilling, Morrison, Stringer, Rishworth and Beach.
Leeds’ next match is away to Bradford at Bracken Ghyll on August 6.