Golf: Charles ascends to the British throne: A New Zealand great uses his green fingers to become the king of the senior circuit: Bob Rodney reports from Royal Lytham and St Annes

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BOB CHARLES, the New Zealand left-hander long regarded as one of the world's great putters, used his famous skill on the 18th green to snatch a dramatic victory in the British Seniors' Open from Tommy Horton, the Royal Jersey professional.

Charles, the joint overnight leader, with the long-hitting Liam Higgins, had gone clear as the Irishman dropped five strokes in his first five holes. He was hotly challenged, though, by the American amateur, Joel Hirsch, while the South African, Gary Player, and England's Tony Grubb and Horton were making threatening moves.

Horton suddenly found himself in the lead after Charles was plugged in a bunker at the 12th. 'I was going along quite nicely until the squalls came,' he said. 'I hit a solid, low shot there and it plugged under the face. I had no option but to try to move it, which I did fairly successfully, but then I played a very poor shot over the green into a bad lie.

'Taking six was frustrating, and I thought perhaps I had blown it, but I hung on there and made some good putts on the 12th and 16th.'

Horton, who was two shots clear on the 15th tee, plugged his drive in the rough and found it unplayable. He was forced to take a penalty drop.

'The 15th has been cruel to me all this week,' Horton said. 'I had a penalty there earlier, when I slipped while moving a leaf, and my club touched the ball.' He took a double-bogey six, but was still a stroke clear at the 18th where he drove into the rough on the right. Going for the green, he was mortified to see his ball run into a bunker. From an awkward stance he came out 15 feet from the hole, and missed the putt.

Meanwhile Charles, now needing only a four to force a play-off with Horton and Player, hit a four-iron seven feet from the hole and sank the putt for a birdie three and victory.

Player, the winner of nine majors on the regular circuit and eight as a senior, also made a birdie at the 18th, finishing with a 73. He said: 'I played like a beginner this week, except for today when I played reasonably.'

The best round of a horrible day was the par 71 from the 1964 PGA champion, Tony Grubb, whose joint fourth place won him pounds 11,000, comparing favourably with the pounds 1,144 he won during the entire 1973 season.

Charles's prize yesterday was pounds 36,650. He collected pounds 1,500 when he won the Open championship.

BRITISH SENIORS' OPEN (Royal Lytham and St Annes) Final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 291 B Charles (NZ) 73 73 71 74. 292 G Player (SA) 73 74 72 73; T Horton 73 72 73 74. 293 A Grubb 77 73 71 72. 295 J Hirsch (US) 73 71 74 77. 296 L Higgins 70 71 76 79; B Huggett 72 73 75 76. 297 A Proctor (US) 73 76 73 75. 298 J Fourie (SA) 72 77 75 74. 299 N Drew 73 73 73 80; D Snell 74 78 69 78; C O'Connor 72 77 72 78; J-M Roca (Sp) 75 72 75 77. 300 A Palmer (US) 73 76 75 76; B Waites 77 75 73 75. 301 B Zimmerman (US) 69 77 75 80; *C Green 72 78 75 76. 302 L Laoretti (US) 75 71 78 78; S Hobday (SA) 74 77 75 76. 303 F Boobyer 74 73 72 84; R Terry (US) 75 79 71 78; *J Stahl (US) 74 75 76 78. 304 R Fidler 77 74 75 78; D Talbot 77 77 74 76. * denotes amateur

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