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Golf - 15. September 2008.

Canadian Alison Murdoch is the one they all have to beat in senior ladies British Open Amateur Championship



Since she retired as a Federal public services manager in Vancouver and had the time to work on her golf game, Alison Murdoch has blossomed into a highly-successful  senior amateur golfer and not just in her native Canada, where she has won the Canadian senior women's title five times.


Twelve months ago, Alison came across the Atlantic to pull off a notable double that confirmed her lofty position in seniors' golf.


She won the Irish Senior Women's Open Amateur Stroke-play title at Lisburn, her third success in the tournament in the previous four years and then came across to Copt Heath Golf Club, Warwickshire to win the 2007 Senior Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship.


Alison outstripped the opposition with closing rounds of 74 and 75 to win by seven strokes from Christine Quinn (Hockley), the defending champion, and Rozalyn Adams (Addington Court Ladies).


Now 58, Alison Murdoch, from Victoria Golf Club, Vancouver, is obviously the one they all have to beat as she defends the British title from September 16 to 18 at Hilton Templepatrick Golf Club, which is only 15 minutes away from Belfast International Airport.


Of course, it's not a one-horse race by any means. For starters, Alison did not win her own Canadian senior ladies' amateur title this year. She finished joint ninth and two of her Canadian compatriots who came joint fifth in that championship - Karen Pultz Holly Horwood - are in the field for Hilton Templepatrick. So they have fairly recent form that will give them high hopes of finishing ahead of Alison.


There are four  former winners of the Senior British Ladies amateur title in the field - Canada's Diane Williams, the 19994 winner, Valerie Hassett (Ennis), the 1996 champion, Mary McKenna (Donabate), triumphant in 2001 and Sweden's Christina Birke who was the winner in 2003.


If handicaps are anything to go by then Janet Collingham (Sherwood Forest), winner of the Ladies British open amateur championship in 1987, former Welsh Curtis Cup stalwart and many times native champion Vicki Thomas (Carmarthen) and Deborah Jamgochian from the famous United States golf club at Winged Foot should be among the favourites. When they filed their entries, Janet had an actual handicap of 0.3, Vicki 0.7 and Deborah 0.1


A Ladies’ European Tour event - the Northern Ireland Ladies’ Open - was played over the Templepatrick course in June last year. England's Lisa Hall won but was "only" two-under-par for the 54-hole event.


The course, at 5,668yd with a par of 71, will be shorter than the professionals played when the senior ladies come to town but it will not necessarily be any easier


According to the Northern Ireland Tourist Guide:


"The Hilton Templepatrick course, which opened in 1999, has made a major impact on the Northern Ireland golf scene. Designed by David Jones and David Feherty, the course, built to US Golf Association specifications, has attracted both locals and internationalists in numbers.


"The island tees are spectacular to drive from, with the large undulating greens in superb condition 12 months of the year. The spectacular par-3 11th displays a number of features associated with the golf course. A row of poplars on the left and the six mile river on the right makes for a challenge that no golfer should miss out on.


"The combined nature of the panoramic views, wonderful natural scenery with an abundance of wildlife allows the golfer to enjoy the surrounds, while the lakes and streams helps to focus the mind on the club and ball."


Competitors will play 18 holes on each of the first two days and the lowest 40 and ties at the end of two rounds will play a further 18 holes on the Thursday.


This will be the second championship under the auspices of the Ladies’ Golf Union to be played in Northern Ireland in recent weeks.


The Ladies’ British Open Amateur Stroke-play Championship at Malone Golf Club, also near Belfast, produced the tightest of finishes, so tight that two Scots, Roseanne Niven and Kylie Walker, had to go out again in a sudden-death play-off before Roseanne was crowned champion.

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