Top seed Julie continues her dream debut

Julie Brown

Staffordshire’s Julie Brown continued her dream debut in the English senior women’s championship at Sandy Lodge, near Watford, when she led the qualifiers for the matchplay stages.

Julie, from Trentham, (image © Leaderboard Photography) was three-over par for the 36 holes and finished the qualifying stage seven shots clear of the field. Tomorrow she plays her first round match against Jane Bennett (Lee-on-the-Solent), who secured 16th place in a three-way play-off for the last two spots in the draw.

Former champion Chris Quinn (Hockley) – who was celebrating her birthday – also came through the play-off, winning the first hole and taking 15th place in the draw. She will play the second seed and defending champion Janet Melville in a re-run of last year’s final.

Karen Lobb (Northamptonshire County) – a semi-finalist last year – missed out in the play-off, but leads the seeding for flight two.

Julie Brown secured her top seeding when she returned a second round score of 75, three over par, to add to her opening 72. She was four-over for the outward half, thanks to four three-putt greens, but played the back nine in immaculate style, with eight pars and a birdie on the 17th.

“It was hard work today,” she said. “I’m really pleased with that score because I could have shot anything. It was windier today and I found the greens more difficult, I played ok but I didn’t get the ball in the hole,” said Julie. “I just tried to stay positive and hang on – and it did get better.”

Julie was an England international before a professional career which included a win on the Ladies European Tour. She returned to amateur ranks in 2006 and is playing her first senior event.

Defending champion Janet Melville swept up the leaderboard today with a level par 72 – the low round of the day and an improvement of 10 shots on her first round score.  She was helped by a better performance on the greens, notably holing a 30-footer for a birdie on the 9th and a 20-footer for another on the 18th.

“Yesterday was a bit of a disaster and the putting was dreadful. Today it was good, but I didn’t really expect to do that,” she said, explaining how she’d recently moved from Nottinghamshire to Lancashire, where she is a member at Royal Birkdale.

Her score of 10-over was matched by Jane Southcombe (Lyme Regis), another newcomer to senior ranks – and a relatively recent returner to golf. She played as a girl, getting down to three handicap, but gave up the game in her early 20s. She took it up again only six or seven years ago and since then she’s become a Dorset county player and last autumn completed her two-year term as county captain.

She’s been the model of consistency with two rounds of 77, both compiled with halves of 38, 39. “I’ve just been tidy and I love matchplay, but I didn’t expect to qualify,” she said.

Another Dorset player, Tracy Bazell (Dorset G&CC), is the third ‘new girl’ to make the championship flight. She was 50 on Boxing Day – sharing her birthday with Julie Brown – and said:  “I was talked into it by another lady here and it’s great. It’s been a good experience so far.”

Tracy, a former Dorset county player, qualified with scores of  77 81. “I was very pleased with the first round, today it was damage limitation, I managed to get it round,” she said.

Surrey’s Debbie Richards qualified in fifth place and will play in the championship matchplay for the first time – having previously won the second flight on two occasions.