Woodhall Spa Golf Club (R&A photo)
Sweden’s Mattias Pernheden and Sue Wooster of Australia hold the respective leads in the R&A Men’s and Women’s Senior Amateur Championships at Woodhall Spa Golf Club in Lincolnshire. However, Mother Nature was the clear winner on the opening day.
Playing the Hotchkin course, Pernheden closed his round with back-to-back birdies to post a four-under-par 69 and claim the lead, from Ken Brewer of Australia, late in the day.
Ken Brewer from Newcastle Golf Club in New South Wales took advantage of the first tee time at 7:30am. He escaped the deluge to post a 3-under-par 70 over the Hotchkin Course to set the clubhouse lead. A lead he still held through two suspensions of play, until Pernheden’s closing birdies.
Fellow Australian Sue Wooster, the reigning Australian Women’s Senior Amateur champion, leads the world’s best senior women by one shot after a level par 73.
No Australian has ever won the men’s or women’s R&A Senior Amateur Championships.
Heavy rain, thunder and lightning forced two suspensions of play. Waterlogged greens meant the hooter was sounded at 15:12 to allow greens staff to squeegee water off the putting surfaces. That delay lasted 19 minutes.
The threat of lightening forced more hooter blasts at 17:02. Competitors were taken off the course for their own safety. Play didn’t restart until 18:45.
Brewer missed it all. He was back in his hotel room while Mother Nature was venting her angst, happy with his work over one of England’s finest courses.
The 63 year old came a whisker away from breaking 70. His 12 foot birdie putt on the final green just slipped past the hole.
“I thought I’d made that putt at the last which would have been nice, but I can’t complain,” Brewer said. “I made a few putts, got it up and down a few times, so it was a fair score. I’m very, very happy. I putted really well today.”
Americans in the field
Oscar Mestre (Berwyn, Penn.) and Jack Hall (Savannah, Georgia) sit tied for third at 2-under while defending champ (and 2023 USA Walker Cup captain) Mike McCoy had a bit of an up-and-down day posting 1-under 71. with five birdies and four bogeys.
Wooster, second highest ranked player in the women’s draw behind 243rd-ranked compatriot Nadine Gole at 398th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, was out in the last three-ball on the Hotchin and saw the worst of the conditions. Delays meant her round took six hours and 58 minutes.
“It was a long day, but worth it,” said Wooster, who shares the same golf coach as US Women’s Open winner Alison Corpuz, Palm Springs-based Craig Chapman.
Wooster was going along nicely when the first delay came into effect.
“I was a couple under after 10 and then that storm hit, and it was torrential rain. When I eventually hit my drive it was into the wind and my drive just went plonk. The conditions turned the hole into a par-5.
“Because there had been so much rain the surfaces changed and I probably under clubbed a few times. It’s hard to know how to play shots when the water’s sitting on fairways like that.”
Wooster warmed up for this event with a sixth place finish in the European Seniors’ Championship, ninth in the English Senior Women’s Amateur Stroke Play and third in the Scottish Senior Women’s Open. However, she had low expectations when she arrived at Woodhall Spa.
“I haven’t been comfortable with my swing – I’ve been a bit crooked – so my expectations were low. But I think I got back on track today. Hopefully, fingers crossed.”
The retired accountant is making his third appearance in the Senior Amateur, but this is his first appearance on a classic heathland course.
“This course is not similar to many courses in New South Wales where I’m from, but there are a lot of similarities to some of the sand belt course around Melbourne because of the bunkering. We don’t have heather and that takes a bit of getting used to. At Newcastle Golf Club, if you hit it two metres off the fairway you’re in the Australian Bush wondering where the snakes are and if the wallabies are looking at you.”
ABOUT THE British Senior Amateur
The British Senior Amateur, called the "Seniors
Amateur Championship" in the United Kingdom,
was launched by The R&A in 1969 to help select
a Great Britain & Ireland side to play in the
World Senior Amateur Team Championship.
Though the British Senior Amateur, played for the
first time at Formby, was an instant success, the
team event did not survive beyond 1969. Charlie
Green has been the most successful player in
the history of the event, winning six times in
seven years beginning in 1988. Like the U.S.
Senior Amateur, players must be over the age of
55 to play. Notable courses played over the
years include Royal County Down, Royal
Portrush, Royal Aberdeen, and Walton Heath.
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