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GOLF: Fliss aiming to go out in style; Birmingham star plans to finish amateur career by beating the best.

Byline: By Peter Ricketts

FLISS Johnson, Birmingham's No.1 woman golfer, is turning professional after one last big fling as an amateur - an attempt to win the Birmingham Mail Woman Golfer of the Year title at Halesowen on Sunday.

The 19-year-old from Harborne made her last appearance as an amateur international at Frilford Heath last week when she played a key role in a second successive English victory in the Home Internationals.

After dominating the Warwickshire scene for a long time, Johnson entered the top echelons of the amateur game last year when she became one of the youngest ever winners of the English Championship.

Success followed success for England and many pundits were surprised when she was left out of this year's GB&I Curtis Cup team (who lost to America).

"I've been playing competitive golf as an amateur since I was 14," she said, "and I feel the time is right for a new challenge.

"I have one more Warwickshire event to play then in October I go to Italy for the European Tour's pre-qualifying school. If I get through that, I go on to Spain in November for final qualifying."

Johnson could be a sponsor's dream. With her flaming red hair, you can spot her a mile away!

She is not putting all her eggs in one basket. She is also starting the three-year PGA course soon to become a fully qualified club professional. "Then I'll have something to fall back on if necessary."

Although she lives only a minute away from the Halesowen course, she has never played it and is looking forward to competing against over 70 other Midland golfers from clubs in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.

"I'm proud to be a Brummie and it would be nice to end my amateur career by winning a Birmingham tournament," said Johnson.

The competitors in our popular event will be playing for over pounds 1,200 worth of prize vouchers offered by sponsors Goldsmiths, Britain's leading quality jewellers with more than 170 shops throughout the land, including their flagship store in Birmingham's Bullring. Others are at Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Merry Hill and Tamworth.

Another England international is in the field - and she is more than 40 years older than Johnson!

Sue Westall, of Copt Heath, is 62 and played in the recent European Seniors Team Championship in Belgium, winning valuable points to lift England into the final where they lost narrowly to France.

Great players, both of them, but the Mail's tournament is mainly aimed at the mid-handicap players for most of whom this is the biggest golfing day of their lives.

Defending champion is Maria Pritch-ard, of Beau Desert, who won the title last year off a handicap of 16.

Halesowen have made the event part of their centenary celebrations and are hoping to see the course record broken.

Play begins at 10am so most competitors will be back in the clubhouse in time to gather round the TV to watch the closing drama of the Ryder Cup match in Ireland.

A full report and picture of the Mail tournament will be in Monday's editions.


10.00: Rebecca Edmonds (Enville)' Jan Mattison (Drayton Park)' Anna Rock (Kidderminster). 10.08: Claire Howells (Moor Hall)' Gill Snelson (Branston). 10.16: Fliss Johnson (Harborne)' Kath Ashley (Nuneaton)' Lisa Barton Coventry (Finham). 10.24: Sue Westall (Copt Heath)' Emily Priest (Stourbridge).

10.32: Julia Denholm (Moor Hall)' Rosie Loh (The Vale)' Katrina Holford (Ingestre Park).

10.40: Kirsty Law (Kings Norton)' Julie Brown (Brocton Hall)' Annette Deeley (Handsworth). 10.48: Samantha Birks (Wolstanton)' Sue Spencer (Whittington Heath)' Sue Smart (Wharton Park). 10.56: Sam Collins (Oakridge)' Sue Thomas (Pype Hayes)' Sheila Dexter (Wolstanton). 11.04: Skye Furnace (Stratford-upon-Avon)' Maria Pritchard (holder, Beau Desert)' Bev Griffett (Dudley).

11.12: Lauren Taylor (Rugby)' Elizabeth Murdoch (Leamington G&C)' Beth Howells (Beau Desert). 11.20: Eleanor Watford (Copt Heath)' Jenny Couch (Stafford Castle)' Jane Powles (Leominster). 11.28: Heather Bissenden (Edgbaston)' Fiona Kidd (Coventry Hearsall)' Jan Warner (Sandwell Park). 11.36: D Barker (North Worcestershire)' Marjorie Chubb (Sutton Coldfield)' Lynda Cornick (Walmley). 11.44: A. Herman-Smith (Blackwell)'Terri Smith (Penn)' Rose Mycock (Trentham Park). 11.52: Eileen Griffin (Stourbridge)' Emma Saywell (Kenilworth)' Vicky Thomas (Enville).

12.00: Marilyn Howard (Burghill Valley)' Sam Long (Droitwich)' Judy Lowe (Ingestre Park). 12.08: Elizabeth Smith (Henley)' Pat Kemp (Kings Norton)' Mary Moffatt (Maxstoke Park). 12.16: Gill Guest (Halesowen)' Rahela Gordon (Hill Top)' Margaret Stiles (Moseley).

12.24: Liz Bruton (Walsall)' Mary Sullivan (N Warwickshire)' Pauline Tromans (Churchill & B). 12.32: Brenda Tingley (Herefordshire)' Linda Clarke (Kidderminster)' Sonara Fraser (Druids Heath). 12.40: Dorothy Lucas (Olton)' Suzanne Hudson (Shirley)' Judith Rees (Rugby).

12.48: Pamela Saunders (Whittington Heath)' Lynda Hartle (Ladbrook Park). 12.56: Joan Lee (Oxley Park)' Sandra Kerby (Robin Hood)' Jane Nightingale (Great Barr).

01.04: Sarah Laker-Smith (Little Lakes)' Caroline Hastilow (Atherstone)' Eileen Rooney (Gay Hill).



LAST BIG FLING... Birmingham's No.1 woman golfer Fliss Johnson.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 23, 2006
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