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.