Old Links tests best amateurs golfers

Slater - joint-leader
Slater - joint-leader
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Lancashire champion Brogan Townend and Cumbria’s Natasha Slater battled the winds to shoot one-under 71 and share the first round lead in the English women’s open stroke play championship at St Annes Old Links

The competitors were tested all day by a stiff breeze which freshened during the afternoon and made scoring difficult.

However, there’s a host of players well in touch, with 22 of them within five shots of the leaders.

Yorkshire’s Rochelle Morris – who was runner-up in the English women’s amateur – is just one behind, on level par while three players are grouped on one-over: Jess Bradley (Tiverton), Sammie Giles (St Mellion) and Lianna Bailey (Kirby Muxloe).

Slater (pictured © Leaderboard Photography) was the first to set the tournament pace and her score marked a turnaround in golfing fortunes for the 15-year-old from Furness. She missed the cut in last week’s English girls’ championship, spent the time in between clearing her head and practising - and it paid off.

“I’m really pleased,” she said. “I came without much expectation because it’s a big competition. I just wanted to do well.”

The strong winds called for extra concentration but Slater’s home course is also a links layout and she felt comfortable. She also enjoyed a hot putter, holing from 20ft, 30ft and 50ft for three of her four birdies. “The greens here are class, they’re amazing,” she commented.

Slater is no stranger to low scores. Last year she was two-under when she won the Scottish U14 championship.

Townend joined her at the top of the leaderboard later in the day and remarked: “It was breezy all day and when it picked up it was really strong and I made a few good par saves.” On the 14th, for example, she saved par despite being in a bunker, and on the 15th she got up and down from about 70 yards.

She was steady throughout the round, getting to the turn in level par and coming home in one-under, with the bonus of a birdie on the 18th.

“I had a few birdie chances which lipped out, but I can’t complain because it was playing tough.

“I was pleased with the round and I’m hoping for more of the same tomorrow,” said Townend.