Golf: Midlothian dig deep for their victory over Fife

DEFENDING champions Midlothian had to dig deep to secure an opening-day win over Fife in the East Women's Inter-County Championship at Royal Musselburgh.

It looked a tough start for the hosts and so it proved as several of the afternoon singles in particular could have gone either way. The experienced pairing of Karen Marshall and Wendy Nicholson gave Midlothian the perfect start in the morning foursomes with a 5 and 4 victory over Fife's two former Scottish champions, Fiona Hastie (nee Lockhart) and Elaine Moffat.

But, with Louise Fraser and Claire MacDonald losing by the same margin to Lorna Fury and Lynda Dyball in the bottom match, the key clash was the one in the middle. That saw young guns Kate McIntosh and Rachael Watton flying the flag for Midlothian against Susan Jackson and Karin Sharp.

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The match was all square with one to play but, after a booming drive from Watton and a fine pitch from McIntosh, the Midlothian pair won the 18th and the match with a closing birdie.

Watton, who goes from strength to strength, produced a solid display to put the first point on the board in the afternoon singles, the Mortonhall player beating Jackson 3 and 2. But, after Fife recorded wins in the next three matches in the order through Hastie, Sharp and Moffat, the outcome was suddenly hanging in the balance.

Fraser, however, bounced back from her morning defeat to chalk up a 4 and 3 win over Rachel Hanlon and Marshall secured victory in the anchor role, 4 and 2 over Fury.

In another close first-day encounter, East Lothian were pipped 5-4 by Stirling & Clackmannan. Fiona Prior and Emma Fairnie won the top foursomes clash for East with a 3 and 2 victory over Vicki Stevenson and Linda Allan. But, after Mary Lou Renton and Ruth Carroll had gone down by 4 and 3 in the middle match to Louise MacGregor and Alison Goodwin, the key blow in the morning session came in the bottom clash where Clara Young and Keren Ward gave an excellent account of themselves but went down on the last green to Karen Burns and Jennifer Bryans.

Stirling & Clackmannan secured overall victory in the singles with wins for Goodwin and Bryans and half points from Carroll and Young.

Today's match saw the two first-day winners clash and the victors will have one hand on the title going into the last day tomorrow.