Lancashire’s Alex Forrest was today crowned England’s champion woman medal player - by the tightest of margins.
She was originally a reserve for England Golf’s Grand Medal Final but squeezed into the field – and then won the championship on countback from two other players.
All three tied with net scores of level par 73 on the Red course at Frilford Heath Golf Club, Oxfordshire. Alex won by virtue of her better back nine which included three birdies. The runner-up was Staffordshire’s Sara Allen, from Branston Golf Club, while third place went to 12-year-old Kaylin Screene, from Croham Hurst in Surrey.
Alex, 18, (image © Leaderboard Photography) was one of the early starters and she had to wait for her victory to be confirmed until Sara came in with the last group.
The four-handicapper said afterwards: “It’s definitely been nerve-wracking watching the leaderboard – and I bogeyed the last! I had a putt for par, I was shaking over it, and it just lipped out.” But the wait was worth it: “This really means a lot because it’s such a big field,” she added.
The final was played as part of England Golf’s first Golf Week, which celebrates the grassroots game with a five-day festival of team and handicap events. It was contested by the cream of England’s club medal players and each finalist returned the four best medal scores at her club during 2015 and had won through a regional final to take her place at Frilford.
Alex, a Lancashire county player from Longridge Golf Club, was playing her second Grand Medal Final and said: “It’s really good, everyone is at different levels of the game and everyone is really enjoying it.”
The final was played in breezy conditions and many players found the slick greens testing, but Alex quickly got the pace. “I had a few bogeys on the front nine but I went on the birdie trail on the back nine,” she said.
Sara Allen is playing only her third season of golf and, with her husband, Paul, is very keen to encourage young people to play the game. So it seemed fitting that she was sandwiched by an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old. “I’m so pleased the youngsters are doing well,” she said.
She played herself into contention with a strong front nine, but with three holes to go she was one-over her handicap. Encouraged by her caddy husband she pulled it back. “I’m overjoyed, I didn’t think I would get this score,” said Sara, a 26-handicapper.
She thinks she’s the first Branston lady to reach the final and added: “I have loved every minute of it. I love medal play for a start, and the England Golf set up, here and at the regional final, has been fantastic.”
Kaylin Screene was one of the youngest competitors, has also been playing for only three years and is making rapid progress. Already this year she’s cut her handicap from 27 to 17.
She was excited and a little nervous about playing in the final, but said: “Once I got going it was fine. I just wanted to keep calm and if I had a bad hole to just keep on going.”
Chipping was one of the strong points of her game and she holed a shot for a par on one hole. Her score would have been much better had it not been for a ball left in a bunker and a lost ball.
Three players tied fourth on one-over 74: Toni-Louise Naylor (Waterton Park), Tracey Crow (Chippenham) and Kate Anne Herron (Bedlingtonshire).