KENT, England (June 28, 2013) -- Another day of wretched weather on the Lancashire coast with driving wind and rain has left the outcome of the Brabazon Trophy as anyone’s guess with the leading 18 players separated by just six strokes
Jordan Smith, who led by four going into day three, found it tough going with 76 for 216, level par, and was caught by Ireland’s Brian Casey, whose 69 was one of the best cards of the day.
The pair are two shots ahead of Kent’s Alfie Plant, another to fire 69, while the chasing pack, including defending champion Neil Raymond, are at least two strokes further back.
The conditions called for cool heads and steady hands. Casey certainly did both as his 69 contained five birdies, three in a back nine of 32. “I’m used to these conditions back home,” he said.
“You just have to show character and get your head down. I love this course. It seems to suit my game and we don’t have too many like it at home.”
His back nine birdies came at the 12th, 14th and 15th which saw him close the gap on Smith. “The 15th was a bit of a sneaky one but I hit a four-iron to 15 feet and holed the putt,” he added.
Smith, out last as leader, covered both nines in 38 and only found a solitary birdie, at the eighth. “It was a bit scrappy,” he said. “I didn’t play half as well as yesterday but I holed out well.
“I felt conditions were worse than yesterday because it was a lot windier. In the end it was just a massive grind and not great. “But there are still 18 holes to go and I’d love to win this because it would open so many doors and this is Walker Cup year.”
Plant, who began the day nine shots back, was another to master the conditions and his 69 included a back nine of 32 containing three of his four birdies.
“I had my range finder with me today and it meant I was more accurate with the distances,” he said. That helped a lot but I have played solid all season. I played as well yesterday but shot six over.”
Raymond, winner for the past two years and seeking to make history with a third successive success, has still not ruled himself out of the hunt despite being joint ninth, five shots behind.
“It was pretty vile out there again,” he said. “It was dry for a while but we got caught in a squall on the back nine. It cost me shots on the 15th and 16th. Still, if I can shoot five under tomorrow I can win again,” he added confidently.
Jimmy Mullen, one of five players in fourth place on 220, is another used to wind and rain at Royal North Devon and he deviated from par just four times. He didn’t have the best of starts with back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth, but birdies at eight and 14 saw him round in level par and still eying the title.
The unluckiest player was Suffolk’s Jack Cardy, who started the day in fourth place but damaged his back playing from beside a tree on the third hole. He continued but was clearly in agony and after shedding a string of shots, retired on the 11th hole and headed for some treatment.
Haydn McCullen leads the race for the Henriques Salver, awarded to GB&I players aged under 20 at the opening day of the championship. The 16 year old from Lancashire is among those in fourth place on 220 after a 73.