Richard Latham saw two years of hard work pay off when he won the English Men’s Senior Championship, his first national title of a long career, at Bristol & Clifton.
On a final day of sunshine, wind and rain, Latham (image © Leaderboard Photography) carded a closing 79 for 221, ten over par, to win by three strokes from defending champion Alan Squires and by five from the rest of the field.
Some of the golf in an eventful third round wasn’t pretty and Latham certainly played his part. But at the end of the day he deserved his success even if he lived on his nerves over the back nine.
“I’ve certainly been through the mill,” he said. “I didn’t play well today and the nerves got the better of me. I got some bad breaks early on which put me on the back foot.
“But I’ve been working towards this for the past two years. I targeted this event for when I became a senior and I have to thank two people for this.
“I’ve been working with coach David Ridley for the past two years to get ready for this. He’s worked on my swing during that time while I have spoken to him every night I’ve been here. I can’t thank him enough.
“The other is my fiancée Lisa, who has given me so much support and boosted my confidence when it’s been down.”
Starting the final round two strokes ahead, he was paired with Stewart King, his closest threat, and Squires. But while the sun shone everyone began spilling shots.
After covering the front nine in 39, four over par, Latham had increased his advantage to five over King, who was out in 42. But as the rain began, the back nine proved a different kettle of fish.
Latham ran up four bogeys in the next five holes as the nerves kicked in and with King was level par for the same stretch, the lead was down to one. It was then anyone’s championship but the big turning point came at the next two holes, the 16th and 17th.
At 16, King duffed his tee shot into a ditch, took a penalty drop then shanked his third towards the out of bounds only for the ball to bounce back off the boundary bank. From there, he fired a superb uphill approach close and holed the putt for a bogey five, while Latham made par.
Then at the short 17th, Latham holed a 20-foot birdie putt, much to his relief, while King took two from sand for a double-bogey five. The pressure was off and Latham could afford another dropped shot at the last for an inward 40 and still win comfortably.
“That was a fabulous birdie at 17 and something I badly needed,” he added.
Squires, chasing a fourth successive title, came home in 38 for second place, a brave defence in the circumstances, while King slipped back to joint third on 227 alongside another senior international, Andrew Stracey, who shot 77.
The Best Nett prize went to joint tenth-placed John Yuill from Newmarket on 228, and the Best score by a player aged over 65 was won by Stephen Whymark from Woodbridge, who returned a best-of-the-day 74, also joint tenth.