The ‘new girls’, led by former Ladies European Tour winner Julie Brown, set the pace in the first round of the English senior women’s amateur championship at Sandy Lodge Golf Club, on the borders of Middlesex and Hertfordshire.
Julie (pictured), who turned 50 on Boxing Day and is playing in her first senior event, took the lead with a level par round of 72. She’s four shots ahead of Leicestershire’s Helen Lowe, who is also new to senior ranks.
Julie, from Trentham in Staffordshire, was an England international before a professional career in which she played on the Ladies’ European Tour for seven years and won the German Open. She returned to amateur ranks in 2006 and has since captained several England girls’ teams, won the Staffordshire championship twice – making four titles in total – and been Midlands North ladies’ champion.
Today was her debut in senior golf and she commented: “It’s just like starting all over again!” She added: “I’m very pleased, over the moon with the score. I just wanted to put a round together today and get a feel for the course, which was playing a bit longer than in practice.”
Overnight rain and a drizzly start to the day took the sting out of the ground and Julie took advantage of the scoring conditions with steady play. She was out in one-under 35, helped by birdies on two pars fives, one of which she reached in two and just missed her eagle. She had just one bogey on the inward half, on the short 18th where her tee shot went through the green.
Helen Lowe, who has twice been the Leicestershire county champion, celebrated her 50th birthday last September and immediately played in the British seniors’ championship, securing a top 30 finish. This is her first English senior event and, she remarked: “I thought I would give senior golf a go, I’ve heard lots of nice things about it and I’m keen to see what it’s all about.”
She put together a steady round which included two birdies, with one on the last where she holed an eight-footer for a two. “The course was playing lovely, the greens are absolutely fantastic and I managed to stay out of the bunkers!” she said.
Among the familiar faces behind the top two is that of Debbie Richards of Burhill, Surrey, who won the second flight last year, and currently shares third place on five over. Two past champions are a further shot behind: Sue Dye of Delamere Forest, Cheshire, and Christine Watson of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
Defending champion Janet Melville (Sherwood Forest) shot 82 and currently shares 23rd place, in a group which includes another former champion, Chris Quinn (Hockley). They will need to improve their position tomorrow if they are to qualify for the championship matchplay.
After tomorrow’s second round the top 16 players will qualify for the championship knockout. The next 16 will contest the second flight.
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