Golf: Brave defence by Grice-Whittaker

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The Independent Online
YORKSHIRE'S Penny Grice-Whittaker, the holder, arrived here to defend her title in the Weetabix British Women's Open Championship, which begins today, after a heart scare which has kept her out of the last three European tournaments.

'I have had several tests after having palpitations. Nothing has been confirmed. I think it's an allergy. My doctor says I must lose weight and stop smoking and biting my nails,' she said.

The golfing mother from Sheffield is no stranger to a challenge. Last year she arrived at Woburn having made the cut in just one tournament. She had to pre-qualify, then went on to win the title - a tall order this week.

Another slimmer, Laura Davies, the winner of the title in 1986, is in pole position this week, when all 10 members of the European team for next week's Solheim Cup match against the United States at Dalmahoy are in the field.

Davies, who has shed 50lb since last winter, bids for a second title after three tournament victories in Europe this year with a staggering stroke average of 69.87, having completed 31 rounds in 82 under par.

Davies and the other Europeans may well have to continue in this vein to hold off the US Open champion, Patty Sheehan, and Dottie Mochrie, who makes her debut in Britain following four LPGA wins this year to top their money list with winnings of dollars 693,335 ( pounds 410,000).

Not that these statistics are likely to intimidate Europe's best, who have made the Americans sit up and take notice this year. Nor is the pounds 300,000 prize money and pounds 50,000 winner's cheque, both records for a women's professional event in Europe.

Davies has featured in two play-offs in America this year, while Florence Descampe, 23, from Belgium, won the McCall's Classic at Stratton Mountain, where she beat Mochrie into second place. Sweden's Helen Alfredsson, winner of the title here two years ago, has just won the LPGA's Rookie of the Year award, and Scotland's Pam Wright led the US Open at the half-way stage before claiming a top-10 finish at Oakmont two months ago.

Liselotte Neumann, another Swede and the 1988 US Open winner, has, like Davies, finished second twice in America this year, but it is Wright who would dearly love to take the title.

Wright has had to pay up a dollars 10,000 fine for playing here without an official release from the LPGA tour. Not surprisingly, the Scot has the pounds 50,000 winner's purse on her mind.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CARD OF THE COURSE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 349 4 10th 466 5 2nd 134 3 11th 175 3 3rd 355 4 12th 398 4 4th 432 5 13th 474 5 5th 158 3 14th 401 4 6th 436 5 15th 390 4 7th 390 4 16th 374 4 8th 156 3 17th 310 4 9th 364 4 18th 462 5 Out: 2774 35 In: 3450 38 Total: 6224 73 -----------------------------------------------------------------