A Hastings-based talent has retained the Sussex County Ladies’ Golf Association County Championship.
Chelsea Masters, from Highwoods Golf Club in Bexhill, won the prestigious event for the second year running after emerging triumphant from a record field of 62 players at West Sussex Golf Club.
She said: “I was a bit surprised to retain it. It was quite a tough field, especially the top 16 - you couldn’t call any match.
“I can’t really split them (the two victories). Obviously that first one is nice, but it’s always nice to get the second to show it wasn’t a fluke.”
The competition began with 36 holes of strokeplay, from which the top 16 players advanced to the matchplay knockout stages.
On the 36-hole qualifying day, despite the unseasonable weather and challenges the course presented, there were some fantastic scores posted.
Masters matched the lowest round of the day with a fine two-under-par 71 in the morning, which was equalled by Sophie Kennard (Dyke GC) in the afternoon. Masters ended the day in fifth place, comfortably qualifying for the last 16.
There were some thrilling matches in the knockout stages, many of them going to extra holes. In a great sign of things to come for Sussex women’s golf, seven of the quarter-finalists and all of the semi-finalists were under 25-years-old.
Masters was a convincing 6&4 winner over Nikki Purton in the last 16, but the quarter-final against Alice McCutcheon, who had home course advantage, was an altogether tougher affair. Masters eventually came through a really close game thanks to a birdie on the first extra hole.
The 24-year-old returned the following day to triumph 3&1 in the semi-finals against Lizzie Price (Nevill), who had been crowned junior county champion just days earlier.
The final, later the same day, saw Masters up against 17-year-old Penny Brown (Worthing), who topped the Sussex Ladies’ Order of Merit.
The match was a fine display of long, straight hitting and greens in regulation, and it quickly therefore became all about the short game and whose putter was hottest.
Keenly contested with holes halved in birdie, Masters always looked rock solid and her five birdies helped her close out a 2&1 victory on the 17th.
“I think I was pretty consistent and I putted really well, which helped,” said Masters, who plays off a scratch handicap and still harbours hopes of competing at tour level.
“I haven’t managed to play as much as I would’ve liked this year and I felt under-prepared, but I practised hard in the weeks leading up to it and I loved the course - I knew I could play well round there.
Masters was also named in the Sussex County ladies’ team for 2016 which, in keeping with tradition, was announced after the County Championship by county captain Sandra Holman.
The first seven places in the squad were awarded to the top players on the order of merit this year, with four places ‘captain’s picks’ by the selection committee.
Sussex will compete against Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and Middlesex later this month in County Match Week 2016. Last year Sussex emerged victorious and went on to represent the south region in the National Finals, coming runners-up to Nottinghamshire.
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