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Yorkshire's Claire Smith wins English mid-amateur championship
4th July 2011

Claire Smith (Photo Leaderboardphotography & EWGA)
Yorkshire's Claire Smith (pictured) won a very tight match to become the 2011 English mid-amateur champion at Collingtree Park, Northamptonshire, beating Jessica Bradley of Devon by one hole. The event is sponsored by Tourism Ireland.

"It's incredible," said Claire, from Silsden. Yesterday, after winning her place in the final she was low-key about her chances and insisted: "I never win anything." Today, all that changed with an excellent display of good quality, tenacious golf.

"It's definitely the biggest title I've ever won, it's very exciting and I'm very honoured to win it," said the 24-year-old Yorkshire county player. Her father, Tom Starkie, was her caddy while her mother, Jackie, left Yorkshire at 4.30am to watch her daughter's triumph. 

Claire said she was shaking as she played the 18th - and, although she was one up, she certainly couldn't relax until the hole was over. Jess, from Tiverton, putted beautifully throughout the final and had birdie chances on both the 17th and 18th which could have altered the outcome, but both stubbornly refused to drop. 

"Jess holed some really good putts and it was really tight all the way through the back nine," said Claire.

The early holes of the match went Claire's way as she sent a series of approach shots arrowing at the pin. After the third, which she eagled, she was two up and she held on to that lead until Jess struck back with a birdie three on the sixth.

The Devon champion got the scoreline back to all square on the seventh, which she played in text book style, while Claire tangled with a tree and a bunker.

They halved the next two before a series of holes changed hands rapidly. First, Jess holed a testing, curling 10-footer on the 10th for a birdie three to take  the lead in the match for the first time.

Then Claire struck straight back with a winning par four on the 11th with a very good up and down from the back of the green. She went one-up again with a par three on the 12th, where Jess missed the green.

On the 13th it was Jess's turn to win the hole with a par, holing out from about 25ft. They shared the next two holes in birdie, par.

The 16th proved to be crucial. Claire won the hole with steady golf as Jess, uncharacteristically, played from one trouble spot to another, first finding an awkward lie on a hump and later going in a greenside bunker. 

She held on to her one-hole lead with halves in par on the last two holes. On both occasions Jess's birdie putts refused to drop and the title was Claire's.

Claire Smith (Silsden) beat Jessica Bradley (Tiverton) 1 up.

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