Lincolnshire’s Richard Latham completed a wire-to-wire victory in the English senior men’s championship at Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire – beating the field by a hefty five shots.
It’s the second time Latham (Image © Leaderboard Photography) has won the title and he commented: “It feels terrific, I am delighted.”
He claimed his crown after a final round which had everything: a first tee wobble, a dramatic charge from a rival, birdies galore – and dogged determination from the new champion.
At the end of it Latham, the general manager at Woodhall Spa, was level par for the championship, returning four-over 75 in the final round. The runner-up was David Niven (Newbury & Crookham), who set the final round alight with three birdies in his first five holes.
Latham made a meteoric start to his senior career in 2013, but came to Kirby with a point to prove, after losing his England senior team place last year. “I have come out and proved I can still play, which is what I wanted to do. I was desperately keen to prove that to myself,” he said.
He made his intentions clear with a superb first round of four-under 67, followed up with level par 71 at Rothley Park – the championship’s co-host – and at the start of the final round he held a seven shot lead over Niven, Chris Reynolds (Littlestone) and Andrew Stracey (Denham).
But, such a big lead can be as much a challenge as a comfort and Latham was edgy on the first tee and ended up topping his opening drive. “It was probably the worst shot I have hit in my entire 40-year competitive career, but I did make a good bogey!” he said afterwards.
A couple of unlucky breaks later and Latham was three over after four. Meanwhile Niven, a senior international, was charging – and the gap was narrowing.
Latham showed his mettle with birdies on five and six, where he struck his shot of the championship. In the first round he had opted to lay up short of the water hazard in front of the green, but this time he went for it, arrowed his shot straight at the pin and holed the 10-footer. “I thought I’d better get a move on!” he said.
Both players also birdied the eighth, but after that Niven’s charge stalled and Latham was able to extend his lead once more. He got back under par for the championship with a birdie on the long 17th where he played a superb approach to about 6ft, but the short 18th cost him a shot after he bunkered his tee shot.
By then, though, it didn’t matter. He’d avoided paying attention to his rivals’ play but he did know he had a very comfortable cushion as he played the last.
He paid tribute to his wife Lisa, for her support, and to his coach, David Ridley. “My coach told me ‘play for yourself, concentrate on what you are doing’ and that’s such sound advice. I gave very little thought to anyone else and concentrated on me.”
The spectators, however, were well aware of the scoring as Latham and Niven – playing in separate groups – collected eight birdies between them.
Elsewhere there was good play from Paul Plant who scored a final round 73, composed of 16 pars and two bogeys, which moved him into a tie for third place with David Nelson (Northenden). Fifth place was shared by Andrew Stracey and Keith Young (Ashridge).