Leeds's Spencer ends long wait with Yorkshire Challenge Bowl success

ENID SPENCER showed impeccable timing when finally winning the prestigious Yorkshire Challenge Bowl after more than 20 years of trying.

Yorkshire Challenge Bowl winner Enid Spencer, right, with runner-up Liz Burkill, left, and Yorkshire Ladies County Golf Association president Ann McMullen. All three are members of Leeds GC, scene of Spencer's triumph.

For her triumph came at her home course Leeds and in a year when club-mate Ann McMullen is president of the Yorkshire Ladies County Golf Association, who run the event, which is one of their flagship tournaments and is open to players with a handicap higher than eight.

After claiming one of 16 qualifying spots on day one of stroke play – “by the skin of my teeth” – days two and three saw her beat four match play opponents, two of them fellow Leeds members.

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Spencer said: “The Challenge Bowl trophy is beautiful and I was joking to the Yorkshire committee before and said, ‘if ever I win this – I have been trying to win it for so many years – I will just retire, that will be the pinnacle’.”

However, her love for the sport meant that, despite having played five exhausting rounds in three days, she gave herself only two days off before playing a club knockout match – which went to the 19th hole.

“I just love golf with all its ups and downs,” she explained. ”

She was involved in the extensive and intensive planning that went into making the three-day golfing festival such a success at Leeds.

“I have played golf for about 40 years and I have supported this competition for more than 20,” she commented.

“We have always enjoyed going and playing it wherever it has been held in Yorkshire and while I have had various minor successes over the years, trying to qualify, this was the icing on the cake.

“The best handicap I ever had was 12 and I was a steady 13 for a bit and then as I got older I’ve crept up a bit in handicap.

“I have been quite touched by some of the text messages and things like that from different people after my win; it has been lovely.”

While the Challenge Bowl has eluded her grasp until this summer she does have her name on honours boards in the grand clubhouse at Leeds, including winning the Laycock Trophy “at least three times, I think,” she said.

These triumphs indicate both her prowess and consistency as it is a competition held over several months during the season, with the trophy awarded to the player with the lowest aggregate from their best three scores.

She produced some consistent golf, too, on the way to laying claim to the Yorkshire Challenge Bowl, but says she did toil in her semi-final against Oakdale’s Lindsey Holt.

“I did struggle and I didn’t play very good golf,” she recalled. “I couldn’t get my rhythm going, so that was the hardest match. But having had a break I did play a bit better in the afternoon in the final.”

Her golf that was “a bit better” saw her beat club-mate Liz Burkill – who had led the way in stroke play qualifying – by 4&3.

She said McMullen being president of the YLCGA was a bonus.

“The Yorkshire Challenge Bowl is open to all the ladies in a certain handicap bracket and they try to move it round the county,” she said. “It is a coincidence that we happen to have it this year when Ann McMullen is the county president, so it was a kind of a doubly nice reason to win it.”

Local knowledge normally benefits players in such circumstances, but the baking-hot summer weather has left the course almost unrecognisable to members.

“I have to say with the state the course is in at the moment, being so dry, it didn’t feel like a home course,” she explained. “A lot of our holes are slopey and the balls were taking the slopes to the extent that they were rolling into difficulties on a few holes.

“I know we had to get a few extra spotters out on some of the holes because of the run of the ball, so it didn’t quite seem like home territory.”

Husband Bill, who caddied for her in the semi-final and final, is “a good golfer” who also has his name on honours boards at a club that she joined in 1977.

“It is a great club,” she concluded. “It is not a large ladies section, but we do have a really nice atmosphere up there, and the men too.”