GOLF: Woodhall Spa’s Latham reclaims senior title

Richard Latham reacquaints himself with a familiar piece of silverware. Photo: Leaderboard Photography
Richard Latham reacquaints himself with a familiar piece of silverware. Photo: Leaderboard Photography
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Woodhall Spa Golf Club’s Richard Latham completed a wire-to-wire victory in the English Senior Men’s Championship at Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire on Friday – beating the field by a hefty five shots.

It was the second time Richard has won the title and he commented: “It feels terrific, I am delighted.”

Richard Latham worked on his swing during the winter. Photo: Leaderboard Photography

Richard Latham worked on his swing during the winter. Photo: Leaderboard Photography

General manager at Woodhall Spa GC, Richard previously won the title on his senior debut in 2013 and quickly added the Scottish title to his English triumph, and topped the England Golf senior order of merit. But last year, by his own admission, was poor – and he arrived at this championship determined to revive his fortunes.

He worked hard on his swing over the winter which has clearly paid dividends.

He took his first step towards reclaiming his crown last Wednesday with a superb 67 at Kirby Muxloe, a four-under par round which put him three shots clear of the field.

“It was a relief,” he said after holing a 15-footer on the last for his seventh birdie of the day. Funnily enough, I didn’t hole a lot of putts because I hit a lot of iron shots close, so it was nice to hole a good one on the last.

“I just kept going, aiming for fairways and greens, and I played really steadily.”

He consolidated his position at the top of the leaderboard on Thursday with level par 71 in his second round at Rothley Park, putting him four-under for the championship.

Meanwhile, his closest first round challengers dropped back as cold temperatures and strong winds took their toll.

But Richard controlled the scoring on the day – and his only disappointment was a three-putt bogey on the last hole.

However, he had plenty to cheer about earlier in the round, including a rapid start with a birdie on the fourth and a chip-in eagle two on the driveable fifth. “That was a bonus!” he remarked.

He dropped a few shots around the turn and counted the cost of a bad bounce, but added: “I had a lot of good things happen so I mustn’t complain. It was a good round and I played solid.”

After the second round, the field was cut to the leading 80 players and ties. A total of 85 players made the cut on 157 to play the final round at Kirby Muxloe on Friday.

Richard took a seven shot lead into Friday and he claimed his crown after a final round which had everything: a first tee wobble, a dramatic charge from a rival, birdies galore – and dogged determination from the new champion.

At the end of it Richard was level par for the championship, returning four-over 75 in the final round. Runner-up was David Niven (Newbury & Crookham), who set the final round alight with three birdies in his first five holes.

Richard was edgy on the first tee and ended up topping his opening drive. “It was probably the worst shot I have hit in my entire 40-year competitive career, but I did make a good bogey!” he said.

A couple of unlucky breaks later and Richard was three over after four. Meanwhile Niven, a senior international, was charging – and the gap was narrowing.

Richard showed his mettle with birdies on five and six, where he struck his shot of the championship. In the first round he had opted to lay up short of the water hazard in front of the green, but this time he went for it, arrowed his shot straight at the pin and holed the 10-footer. “I thought I’d better get a move on,” he said.

Both players also birdied the eighth, but after that Niven’s charge stalled and Richard was able to extend his lead once more. He got back under par for the championship with a birdie on the long 17th where he played a superb approach to about 6ft, but the short 18th cost him a shot after he bunkered his tee shot.

By then, though, it didn’t matter. He’d avoided paying attention to his rivals’ play but he did know he had a very comfortable cushion as he played the last.

He paid tribute to his wife Lisa, for her support, and to his coach, David Ridley: “My coach told me ‘play for yourself, concentrate on what you are doing’ and that’s such sound advice. I gave very little thought to anyone else and concentrated on me.”

Photos: Leaderboard Photography