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Sue beats par to lead English championship

STAFFORDSHIRE’S Sue Spencer blitzed through the closing holes to score one-under par 72 and take the first round lead in the English senior women’s strokeplay championship at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire.

She birdied three of the last four holes as she came home in two-under par and edged past Derbyshire’s Lindsey Shaw, who shot level par 73.

Spencer is a past Staffordshire champion from Whittington Heath and plays off five handicap. She commented: “This is my best-ever score in an English championship, it was very enjoyable and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

She was part of a low-scoring group with playing partner Ali Hansen (Alnmouth) coming home in three-under par for a total of 76. “Ali had a cracking score on the back nine and for the last couple of holes it was like a match play situation. She did one thing, I did another. It was good fun,” said Spencer, who had the “calming influence” of her husband, Tim, on the bag.

She had some spectacular shots, such as the long putt she holed from the fringe for birdie on 12 and the iron shot to 1ft on the 17th for the easiest of birdies.

Lindsey Shaw (Chevin) also raced home with a very similar finish which featured three birdies over the closing holes. She capitalised on a series of super-accurate approach shots by holing out from 3ft on 15, from 4ft on 16 and from 5ft on 18.

Shaw, who helped England win the 2015 senior women’s Home Internationals and a European team silver, was full of praise for the course. “It’s a very good course and well set up for a championship for senior ladies. It’s fair, if you hit good shots, you get good results.”

Two shots further back are Cheshire’s Sue Dye (Delamere Forest) and Berkshire’s Linda Hunt (Newbury & Crookham). Dye, another senior international, set off in the first group and her two-over 75 stood as the mark to beat for much of the day, before a late-afternoon flurry of low scores.

Dye, a former champion, was less than impressed with her chipping, but drove and putted well on a course which is playing long after heavy rain yesterday and frequent showers today. “I like it like this,” she added, after signing off with a birdie on 18. “The ball goes where you hit it.”

Behind them is a group on three-over 76 which includes English senior women’s champion Cath Rawthore, who would love to do the title double. “Who wouldn’t?” she asked. “But there’s so many tremendous players who could win this. I’ve just got to keep plugging away and keep patient.”

Rawthore, from Sale, Cheshire, added: “I think this is a really good course, there are no weak holes. It’s risk and reward – and if you hit good shots you get the reward.”

Joining her on the leaderboard is Karen Jobling (Richmond, Yorkshire), who was runner-up to Rawthore in the senior women’s amateur and is enjoying the confidence gained from that achievement. Their group is completed by Ali Hansen and Buckinghamshire player Denise Goodacre (Lambourne), who eagled the long second where she holed a 10-footer, but who counted the cost of a three-putt on 17 and a missed two-footer on 18.

“I left a few putts out there, but I was pleased with my game,” she said. She also followed her game plan, formed after the English women’s amateur when the second day was washed out by torrential rain. After a look at this week’s weather forecast Goodacre decided it was “important to get off to a good start on the first day.”

Among the other players who played their way into the mix was defending champion Lulu Housman of Wyke Green, Middlesex, who scored 78 while British senior champion Julie Brown (Trentham, Staffordshire) is a shot further back.

After today’s second round the field will be cut to the leading 45 players and ties who will contest the final round tomorrow (Thursday).

Pictured is Sue Spencer in action (image © Leaderboard Photography).