Felicity sets the pace as the temperature rises

Jackie Foster

Surrey’s Felicity Christine dislikes the heat – but shot two-over par 74 in scorching temperatures to lead the first round of the English senior women’s stroke play championship at Harpenden, Hertfordshire. 

She’s a shot clear of a group of four other internationals who all scored 75: defending champion Jackie Foster of Hertfordshire, who celebrated her birthday yesterday (image copyright Leaderboard Photography); Karen Jobling of Yorkshire, Helen Lowe of Leicestershire and Julie Brown of Staffordshire.

Christine, a past British senior champion from Woking, spent most of the round with a wet towel round her neck, shaded by an umbrella – de rigeur apparel for the conditions.

“It got a bit oppressive but I just played solid. I struck the ball well and tried to play conservatively because it’s the first day of a three-day tournament,” she commented.

Sticking to that philosophy involved sparing use of the driver and avoiding the temptations of risk and reward holes, such as the 7th and 17th. “Maybe on day three but not today!” said Christine, who had four birdies in her round. “I played the sensible way, committed to shots and had a decent course strategy.”

Foster (Bishops Stortford), is another player who hates the heat but she held it together, despite first tee nerves at the start of her defence.

“I didn’t start very well, I had two bogeys in the first three holes, but I got it back together and played steadily,” she remarked. She was three-over on the outward half but came home in level par, helped by two birdies.

The challenge of the weather included the importance of maintaining focus. Karen Jobling (Richmond) commented: “When it got very, very hot it was tough to keep concentrating, but there were opportunities to be had if you were brave enough take them.”

She took her chances to score four birdies during her round, including one on the last. “That was a great way to finish,” she added.

Although the weather precluded very low scoring it did nothing to dampen the competitiveness of the field. Behind the group in second place there’s a packed leaderboard and there are 14 players within five shots of the lead.

Harpenden Golf Club is hosting a national championship for the first time and is represented by four players in the field. Cathy Gosling leads the way for the club, followed by Rhona Finch, Naoko Wada and Jill Banks.

After tomorrow’s second round the field will be cut to the leading 45 players and ties who will play the final round on Thursday.

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Captions: Defending champion Jackie Foster (top). Spectators take advantage of  shady spot by the 18th green (below). (Images copyright Leaderboard Photography).