Niven wins senior champions’ title by five

David Niven

International David Niven played his way to a five-shot win in the English senior men’s county champion of champions tournament at Woodhall Spa.

He was one shot off the lead after yesterday’s first round of level par 73 – compiled in teeming rain – and today added a steady 74 on the Hotchkin course to complete his victory march.

Niven, from Newbury & Crookham in Berks, Bucks & Oxon (BB&O) said: “I’m absolutely delighted for my county and for our President, Rod Crisp, who caddied for me.

“I was BB&O junior champion at 16 and I don’t know what happened in the intervening 43 years! But it’s so nice to come back as a county champion and to win this tournament, which is always so prestigious.”

The runner-up was Steven Rooney of Essex (Orsett) who returned a pair of 76s for six-over total, finishing one ahead of Staffordshire’s Robert Aston (Trentham); Royal Jersey’s Trevor Gray of Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands; and Lancashire’s Tony Holt (Clitheroe).

This was Niven’s first appearance in the tournament, having been runner-up in his county championship three times before taking this year’s title in a play-off.

After the first round he was one shot behind an injured Nigel Chesters of Shropshire & Herefordshire (Hawkstone Park) and tied with Gray.

Today, while Niven played steadily, a dramatic challenge was launched by English senior champion Richard Latham of Lincolnshire, who was playing on his home course. He got to three-under after 11 holes and briefly took the lead before his charge fizzled out.

Niven, meanwhile, was working his way to a comprehensive lead. He reached the turn at one-over, dropped shots at the next two holes, but played the rest in two-under par, with the help of an eagle on the long 14th. “That was a great boost and after that I held it together, although I was a little defensive with my putting.”

He went on: “You just can’t relax for a minute on this course. I knew with three or four holes to go that I was probably ahead, but there were quite a lot of pressure shots to come.”

Niven was full of praise for the course: “It was in perfect condition and a joy to play. My godfather was a member here and I used to play it when I was younger. It’s been really nice to come back and play such a great course.”

Niven has just returned from the European team championships where he helped England seniors win a bronze medal – and next week he’s off to the Senior Home Internationals, buoyed up by this win.

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Caption: David Niven, the 2016 English senior men’s county champion of champions. (Image © Leaderboard Photography).