Thursday, May 12, 2011


A hole-in-one from former winner John Lower was the highlight on the opening day of the Senior PGA Professional Championship at Northants County.
The 62-year-old Wollaton Park professional, who won the title in 2003, notched his ace at the 135-yard 12th to give him a share of the lead with tournament debutant Peter Smith (Deeside), pictured right by Cal Carson Golf Agency.
On a poignant day when the seniors paid their respects to the great Seve Ballesteros, many reflected on the loss of the five-time major winner and fellow senior.
The hole-in-one, plus an eagle from Smith on the last, which enabled both players to card three-under-par 67s, were fitting tributes to a player who touched so many of those competing this week.
The testing Northants County track once more took no prisoners with just five players shooting under-par with Graham Farr (Worcester G and CC) sitting third on 68, while defending champion Bob Larratt (Kibworth) and Garry Harvey (Kinross) carded 69s to complete the top five.
Lower admitted the ace came out of the blue and was more of an unsteadying influence on his round than a confidence boost.
"The hole-in-one did unsettle me a bit," said Lower.
"It wasn't a perfectly struck shot, it was ok. I came in a bit steep at it, it wasn't the best swing but it was straight at the pin.
"I thought it was short and it was only when we got up there we knew it had gone in. I've had nine hole-in-ones but that is the first one I have had in a tournament.
"I wasn't really expecting that at all as I was plodding along at one-under and suddenly I found myself three-under. I lost my rhythm a bit and bogeyed the next and birdied the one after that.
"I three-putted the 15th and scrambled fours at the next two holes and after a poor drive at the last, hit a good lay up and then got up and down for a birdie."
Aberdeen-based former Scottish Northern Open champion Peter Smith, who returned to the UK last year after 10 years working in New Zealand and the Netherlands, was delighted with his opening round and especially his finish after a double bogey at the 14th almost undid all his good work having eased to three-under on the back of four birdies, with just one bogey at the ninth.
Smith said: "I four-putted the 14th but I made eagle at the last, which made up for it because I was really disappointed with the four-putt.
"Throughout, I was just thinking 'keep it steady' as there are not going to be too many scores under par for this type of course.
"It is more a course for hanging on in there and hoping to make a few putts as the greens are very tricky."
Farr, who only turned 50 a matter of weeks ago to be eligible to compete in the £33,000 tournament, could have joined the leaders - only to commit the cardinal sin of thinking ahead, which resulted in a bogey six at the last.
"I got too excited and went in with a six iron and put it wide and then fluffed it into the bunker. I got far too excited thinking a birdie at the last would give me the lead," he said.
"But that aside I'm absolutely delighted with my start as I came here with no expectations.
"I only play three or four competitive rounds a year I thought I'd give it a go as I used to be able to play a little bit.
"I've not had a practice round and zero preparation so I started a bit iffy but then got it going. The putting was really good today, I made some nice birdies and then made some crucial putts coming in to save par.
"I played better when I was under pressure as I was getting confident under the pressure and hitting better and better shots but then lost my way a little bit thinking about the result rather than a shot a time."

Former British boys champion Garry Harvey from Kinross is sharing third place on 69, one shot ahead of Campbell Elliott (Haggs Castle) and former title-winner Bill Lockie (North Gailes).A cut will reduce the 144-strong field to 40 and ties. The top 20 players will qualify for the De Vere Club PGA Senior Championship at Slaley Hall in June, which has a prize fund of £250,000, while the winner will also compete in Scottish Seniors Open at Fairmont St Andrews in August.


Par 70
67 Peter Smith (Deeside), John Lower (Wollaton Park).
68 Graham Farr (Worcester).
69 Bob Larratt (Kibworth), Garry Harvey (Kinross).
Selected scores:
70 Campbell Elliott (Haggs Castle), Bill Lockie (North Gailes).





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