Northants set for Senior showdown

16/05/2013

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A day of intrigue awaits the final round of the Senior PGA Professional Championship at Northants County with just two shots separating the top eight title contenders.

Overnight leader John Lower remains at the head of the leaderboard after a second round one-over-par 71 eased him to level par for the tournament ahead of the final round.

But the 64-year-old Wollaton Park Professional is not alone as he was joined at the top by Surrey’s Senior Tour hopeful Wraith Grant (Woodcote Park), who carded a best-of-the-day 68.

Nestled in just a shot behind on one-over are Robert Ellis (Newark), Phil Hinton (Chesterton Valley) and Richard Masters (Baildon).

Also not out of the running, and confident of taking the title and the £4,750 winner’s cheque, are Yorkshire’s Paul Carman, Stephen Bennett (Waltham Windmill) and Germany-based Scotsman Stephen Craig.

But all eyes are on Lower and whether he can maintain the form and calmness he has shown over first two days.

Lower, a winner of the title in 2003 at Coventry, is taking the prospect of the head-to-head with Grant in his stride having been here before and learned from the anxiety of being in the hunt.

“I’ve been in this position before so my aim is just to stand up to it and just do my best,” said the 64-year-old.

“Two years before I won in 2003 I was two shots behind the leader and I completely let my game go and shot 80 or 81 and I said at the time if I ever get in that position again I will not do that. So two years later, I’m in that position and went on to win.

“Now, a decade on, I’m not going to worry about it and just go out there and play. If I play well who knows?”

Lower’s bid to stay at the top initially unravelled with a double bogey at the first, but he regained a shot at the second before pars to the turn. Bogeys at 10 and 11 looked to have done more harm, however experience told as these losses were recovered on the next two holes before seeing potential birdie chances go begging on the way home.

“I had a lot of birdie chances but ended up just the wrong side of the pin with a lot of fast curly putts,” he added.

“I don’t know how my putt didn’t go in at 15 and I just missed birdies at 16 and 17 and then there was the 18th where I was looking at a birdie chance but ended just scraping par.”

Joint-leader Grant will be looking to maintain his form and look to capitalise on his opening event on what will be a busy season on the Senior Tour.

The 52-year-old has the luxury of having already secured a place in next month’s ISPS HANDA Senior PGA Championship by virtue of his performance at Qualifying School at the start of the year.

But he admitted he was close to tears over the front nine as the putts failed to drop resulting in three bogeys and just one birdie for his efforts. That turned around with a flawless back nine comprising four birdies.

“I played great on the front nine I just couldn’t hole anything," said Grant.

"I was nearly in tears on one hole and then I holed a 70 footer on five and then missed one six and three putted seven. Hit it close eight and missed and hit it close at nine and missed it.

"The front nine was easily as good at the back nine the difference was I holed the putts."

He added: "I’m here just to do well. It’s nice not to have the pressure of having to finish in the top 20 to qualify for the PGA Seniors as I am through the senior tour. It means I don’t to worry and can just play – but it’s easy to say as it doesn’t really work.

"I try just as hard and still got to play well. I like the course and played well in the pro-am shooting 67. I’m playing great I have just got to keep it going."

The cut fell at nine-over-par which saw 44 players make it through to the final round to battle it out for a share of the £35,000 prize fund, while the top 20 will qualify for next month’s ISPS HANDA PGA Senior Championship at De Vere Mottram Hall, Cheshire.

This is the seventh successive year the championship has been held at Northants County.

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