Third time lucky for Alison Gray

Alison Gray.jpg

ALISON Gray and retired dentist Pat Johnson bridged a three-year gap at Pestana Vila Sol, Portugal, to ensure the name of Ormskirk Golf Club was finally engraved on the WPGA Lombard Trophy.

Gray (pictured by Tony Marshall, Getty Images) has played in every final of the competition since it was launched, finishing third in 2016 and fourth last year.

“Third time lucky,” she beamed after the pair completed the final hole on the Algarve resort’s Prime course without mishap to win the tournament.

There was nothing lucky, however, about the victory in the £7,800 event which is supported by Pestana Hotels and Coca Cola.

Successive sub-par rounds for a four-under-par total of 140 are testament to that. Likewise, the way Gray and her partner, a recent convert to golf from hockey with a handicap of 27, repelled the challenge of Leeds Golf Centre and Beau Desert Golf Club.

Ormskirk had begun the second round a shot clear of Leeds pair PGA pro Eleanor Robinson and Marise Richford and ended it two ahead of runners up, Beau Desert.

The latter’s pairing of 1997 US Women’s Open champion and Solheim Cup player and captain, Alison Nicholas, and her amateur partner, Pam Bailey, posted the round of the tournament.

But their five-under-par 67 was not sufficient to repair the damage done by their opening three-over-par round of 75.

Neither did it trouble the eventual winners. Until they imploded on the back nine, after reaching the turn a shot shy of Ormskirk, Leeds Golf Centre posed the bigger threat.

Ormskirk, meanwhile, adopted a Faldoesque approach to claim that hitherto elusive success and signed off with nine successive pars.

“We were very consistent,” said Gray. “I didn’t make many birdies but there were plenty of solid pars.”

Playing a part in those solid pars were some new TaylorMade irons courtesy of a small wager on fellow PGA pro and Staysure Senior Tour winner David Shacklady and Gray’s long-serving caddy, friend and Ormskirk member, Yvonne Brown.

“David got me started in golf when I was 15,” Gray recalled. “I was cack-handed and held the club the wrong way. He sorted that out and helped me with my game.

“We’ve known each other ever since and I’ve followed his progress on the Senior Tour. I saw that he came fifth in the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship at the London Club last month and was 75 to one to win the next event, the Russian Open.

“I don’t usually bet but I put a fiver on him and he won – that paid for the clubs!

“As for Yvonne, we play about three times a week at Ormskirk and she’s caddied for me for four years. She knows my game inside out and I couldn’t have done this without her.

“She’s been here with me in all three finals so it’s brilliant to finally win, to obviously have played well and had a fun week with my amateur. And it’s great for ladies golf to be here competing alongside the men.

“It’s an excellent week in all respects. It’s a fun week but you still get nervous because you want to do well for yourself and not let your amateur down.”

Johnson, for her part, did not let her pro down but was indebted to the support she received from team Ormskirk.

“I only took up the game four years ago,” she said. “It’s been a rapid progression in a way and it’s all a bit surreal.

“I feel so lucky to have been here and had a crack at the course. Ali was so supportive, as was Yvonne, and my husband who caddied for me and kept me calm. I’ve had a lovely time.”

Leading scores: Ormskirk Golf Club 140 (-4); Beau Desert Golf Club (142 (-2); Leeds Golf Centre 143 (-1)

 

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