DEFENDING champion Ian Attoe believes the quality and strength in depth will be on show at this week’s English Seniors Championship.
Last week Attoe took his hat off to fellow “golden oldie” Paul Wharton who – at the age of 59 – made the quarter-finals of the English Amateur Championships at his home club Woodhall Spa.
Attoe, from Surrey, is certain that there is plenty more good golf to come from Wharton and the other 143 competitors taking part in the over 55s championship as England Golf’s headquarters takes centre stage again.
The Lincolnshire venue will stage the 54-hole strokeplay event less than a week after Gloucestershire’s Jack Cope was crowned English Men’s champion – while Ludlow’s Emily Price took the Women’s title for the first time.
The English Seniors will be played on both the Bracken and Hotchkin courses as were last week’s two national championships.
Thursday’s round will be on the Hotchkin and Friday’s on the Bracken.
A cut will be made with the top 60 players completing for the trophy on Saturday on the Hotchkin – rated one of the best parkland courses in the UK.
Lincolnshire return for champion
ATTOE is out to make it a hat-trick of wins after success at Sherwood Forest and Coxmoor, in 2018, and last year at Holme Hall and Elsham, also in Lincolnshire.
That might be easier said than done – especially if Wharton plays to form around the Woodhall Spa courses he knows so well as a member, and if the rest of the field also rise to the occasion.
“It was great to see Paul – a fellow England team-mate – do so well last week,” said 61-year-old Attoe. “He just showed what can be done.
“The Hotchkin can be a fierce test. But Paul and some others showed that there is a score to be made out there.
“The standard of the seniors’ game is going up and up.
“In the past there might not have been some particularly good scores that have won it. But I think even though it’s two tough tracks this week, the scoring will be good.
“There’s so much quality in the field that I could list a whole host of players who could challenge.”
And as for his own chances, the Worplesdon GC member added: “I played some shots last week in the men’s amateur that gives me hope going into this. I didn’t score very well, but there were signs.
“This is a special championship – if you are only going to win one event the whole season then this is it.
“Every year I look to play well and aim for the top three or four – and I’ve been lucky enough to win it three times.
“I like Woodhall Spa as a venue – I’ve played it a lot over the years in the central England men’s events and it has two terrific courses.”
Seniors championship offers friendly rivalry
A FEATURE of the seniors amateur championship over the years has been the camaraderie off the course.
And while there will be changes to the norm for this year – because of coronavirus crisis – the spirit of friendly rivalry will not diminish.
England Seniors international Attoe added: “The disrupted season certainly affected my motivation to practise when I wasn’t sure there would be any tournaments to aim for.
“We were all extremely fortunate get out playing social golf at our clubs from May. But there was nothing competitive to aim for at that stage.
“I’m extremely pleased England Golf have been able to re-schedule this event and given us old boys something to focus on.
“It is fiercely competitive, but it’s also played in an extremely friendly atmosphere.
“In regular times we all spend almost as much time enjoying each other’s company in the clubhouse as we do out on the course.
“But I’m sure we will all still enjoy our week.”
•To follow live scoring at the English Seniors click here.
Attoe was fourth player to defend English Seniors crown in nearly 40 years
IAN Attoe became just the fourth player to successfully defend England’s Over 55s title in 39 years in 2019.
He joined Alan Squires, Roy Smethurst, and Sussex’s Doug Arnold in achieving the feat – although Smethurst, from Cheshire’s Crewe GC, is the only player to have done it twice, in 2004/5 and 2000/1.
Lancastrian Squires, from Saddleworth, is the only player to have won the trophy three years in a row since the competition was founded in 1981.
Smethurst has the most wins – four in that period – while Attoe joins Sonning Common’s David Lane, Squires, Arnold, and Cheshire’s G M Edwards, who all have three each.
Attoe’s first win came at his home club Worplesdon, back in 2015.