Chesters defies back injury to lead senior county champions

Nigel Chesters

Beware the injured golfer! Nigel Chesters shot one-under par today at Woodhall Spa despite a bad back and leads by one at the halfway stage of the English Senior Men’s County Champion of Champions tournament.

Chesters, from Shropshire & Herefordshire, hurt his back on Thursday when the golf buggy he was riding in hit a hidden hole. He’s moving gingerly and had to get his caddy to lift his ball from the hole, but said: “Perhaps it’s done me a favour and kept my swing a bit more controlled.”

He had six birdies in his 72 on the Hotchkin course – despite continuous rain – and said afterwards: “I am really chuffed. I love Woodhall, it’s a great golf course in great condition and a thinking man’s course.”

He had only one bad hole in the round, where his ball plugged in a bunker on the 10th and he had a double bogey, but he came straight back with a birdie. Chester’s putter more than compensated for his dropped shots and he remarked: “I holed a few yards of putts today.” They included a 40-footer on the 16th for his last birdie of the day.

Chesters (Hawkstone Park) is playing his first full season of senior golf. He’s being chased by senior international David Niven and Channel Islander Trevor Gray who both shot level par 73 in the downpour.

Gray, from Royal Jersey and representing Hampshire, Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, hit 15 greens in regulation and, to his delight, wasn’t required to hit a single chip shot. “I am the worst chipper in the world, I chip one-handed,” he said.

Gray is also playing in this event for the first time, but is a full-time senior golfer who has previously won the Austrian and Cyprus titles. One by-product of his enthusiasm is a close acquaintance with airports – so far this year he’s taken 64 flights!

Niven (Newbury & Crookham) is representing Berks, Bucks & Oxon (BB&O) and has just returned from the European team championships where he helped England to win a bronze medal.

Today, he produced a strong finish with birdies on the 17th, where he holed a 20ft putt, and the 18th, where a superb three-wood into the green set up a two-putt birdie.

For the rest he was very steady, driving well and hitting most fairways. His only bogeys – three in a row from the 9th – were caused by three-putting and he said: “Apart from that I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Niven is also making his debut in this event, having been runner-up in his county championship three times before taking this year’s title in a play-off. “This is a great course and you can’t relax for a minute – the margins between a good shot and deep trouble are not very big. To go round here in level par is always pleasing and if I do that tomorrow I will be even more pleased,” he said.

Defending champion Keith Waters, from Surrey, opened with 80 and said: “I haven’t got a good track record in the rain.”

Despite the dreary conditions he added: “It’s not impossible. Woodhall Spa is a great and very difficult golf course and you have to be on top of your game. When it’s constantly raining and your gips are getting wet you know you will hit some bad shots, but it’s how bad they are and how unlucky you are.”

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Caption: Halfway leader Nigel Chesters (Image © Leaderboard Photography)