Former English senior men’s champion Richard Latham took a step towards reclaiming his crown today with a superb 67 at Kirby Muxloe Golf Club in Leicestershire.
Latham (image © Leaderboard Photography) won the title on his senior debut in 2013 and launched his current championship campaign with a four-under par round which put him three shots clear of the field.
His closest challengers are two ‘new boys’ Nigel Chesters, from Shropshire, and Lancashire’s Trevor Foster, who both scored one-under par 70 at the championship’s other host venue, Rothley Park.
Behind them on level par are Johnny Lawrence (Moor Allerton) and Keith Young (Ashridge), who also played at Rothley Park.
Latham, the general manager at Woodhall Spa, made a dream start to his senior career. He quickly added the Scottish title to his English triumph and topped the England Golf senior order of merit. But last year, by his own admission, was poor – and he has arrived at this championship determined to revive his fortunes.
He worked hard on his swing over the winter and was rewarded today, reaching the turn in one-under and coming home in three-under. “It was a relief,” he said after holing a 15-footer on the last for his seventh birdie of the day. “Funnily enough I didn’t hole a lot of putts because I hit a lot of iron shots close, so it was nice to hole a good one on the last.
“I just kept going, aiming for fairways and greens, and I played really steadily.”
Chesters and Foster are both making their first appearance in this event, but come armed with much experience.
Chesters (Hawkstone Park) is a past winner of the English men’s mid-amateur championship for the Logan Trophy, while Foster (Accrington and District) played 108 times for Lancashire and was in the 1988 Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Chesters’ round marked his return to form after three years of nearly-but-not-quite results which have seen his handicap creep up from plus-two to scratch. Today, though, his short game was hot and he had a purple patch around the turn, with three birdies in four holes from the eighth.
Foster had four birdies in his round, including one on the last to tie with Chesters. He’s enjoyed much success in Lancashire and he commented: “It’s nice to come here and see what I can do. I wanted to dig in and this is a nice opening round, but there’s still two rounds to go.”
The 288 competitors had to contend with chilly temperatures and blustery winds and only five players in the field of 288 equalled or bettered par. Overall, the better scoring was at Rothley Park, where 10 players were among the top 15 on the leaderboard. The more penal rough at Kirby Muxloe was generally reckoned to be the difference between the two.
Cheshire’s David Nelson (Northenden) had the second best score at Kirby Muxloe after returning one-over 72, despite a tweaked back. “Beware the injured golfer,” he joked.
Nelson’s round had a dramatic start when he opened with an eagle two on the first, after holing an eight-iron, and followed up with birdie three on the fourth. He is another player in good form having won the recent West of England seniors, a scratch event at Wallasey and the Cheshire senior matchplay.
The shot of the day belonged to Tony Croasdale of Stanton on the Wolds who had a hole in one on 183-yard 12th at Rothley Park.
The championship is played over 54 holes of stroke play. All competitors play 18 holes on each of the two courses over the first two days. After tomorrow’s second round the field will be cut to the leading 80 competitors and ties who will play the final 18 holes at Kirby Muxloe on Friday.