Foster and Russell lead in the rain

Katherine Russell

Hertfordshire’s Jackie Foster and Katherine Russell of Sussex share the lead after a rain-soaked opening day at the English senior women’s championship at Ross-on-Wye Golf Club.

Both posted impressive scores of one-over par 74 on a day which began and ended with torrential downpours, with plenty of regular rain in between. The start of play was delayed by 90 minutes, but the course stood up well to the challenge and won praise from the players.

Russell (Royal Ashdown Forest) finished her round in the evening deluge, managing to birdie the 16th, but having to battle her way down 17 and 18.

“It was very unsettling, on the 17th I pulled it into the trees but luckily was able to pitch out short, but I dropped a shot. On the 18th I had to take three off the tee, although I did find the first one and made par,” added Russell, (pictured top) a past British senior champion.

Jackie Foster (Bishops Stortford) also handled the conditions in style – to her relief. “I’m not keen on playing in the rain so I just tried to keep it going,” she said.  A couple of early birdies got her off to a good start and she played steadily, helped by a very nice chipping touch.

“I’m very pleased I kept it going,” remarked Foster,(pictured left)  who is a past captain of the Hertfordshire women’s first team.

The players are targeting a place in the top 16 at the end of tomorrow’s second round – and with it a place in the matchplay stages to find the 2016 champion.

The leaders are one shot ahead of former England cricketer, Karen Jobling of Yorkshire who credited a positive attitude as key to her score. “I wasn’t negative – and there were holes where I was really in trouble,” she said.

It certainly worked – on the 11th she was in the trees, saw a small gap to the target and went for it, being rewarded with a birdie. “It was a positive shot and it came off,” said the Richmond player.

In common with many of the players she wasn’t deterred by the weather: “We get inclement weather in Yorkshire – I played Ganton the week before last in the snow!”

Chasing her is a group of three players on 76: defending champion Helen Lowe, Lancashire’s Helen Braddock and former British senior champion Cath Rawthore.

Lowe (Scraptoft) confessed to some nerves as she began the defence of her title but she played steadily – and was rewarded by her investment in a putting lesson with Oli Leett, one of the club’s professionals, when she arrived at Ross-on -Wye. “He gave me a routine which helped me and I did putt well,” she said.

Meanwhile Helen Braddock (Bolton Old Links) marked her debut in the championship with impressive play, armed with a new set of irons. “I usually play in the Northern vets’ championship but last year I didn’t play well and I decided to have a change – and I’m loving it,” she said after shooting 76.

Cath Rawthore (Sale) joined them on the three-over mark commenting: “I struck it nicely and had a couple of birdies on 10 and 11, which I was happy about, because putts lipped out on 6 and 7 and I felt a bit robbed.”

Ross-on-Wye’s home challenge is led by Pat Watkins – a three-time county vets’ champion – who is tied 36th, two shots ahead of Jan Armstrong.

After tomorrow’s second round the top 16 players will go forward to the championship match play which takes place on Thursday and Friday, 12 and 13 May. Players finishing 17th-64th go forward to play in Flight Two, taking part in a 36-hole stroke play competition, with 18 holes played on each day.

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