SCARBOROUGH, UK (July 25, 2016) -- It was a tale of two courses today as strong winds marked the opening round of stroke play qualifying for the English Amateur Championship.
The first 31 players on the leaderboard – who were all under par – all played at Scarborough South Cliff where Yorkshire’s Ben Firth (Moortown) led the way on five-under par 67.
At Ganton – acknowledged to be the tougher of the two championship courses – the combination of strengthening winds and thick rough pushed up scores and the par of 71 was equalled by only two players, Laird Shepherd (Rye) and Will Enefer (Wrekin).
South Cliff, with its combination of parkland and clifftop holes, may be the more forgiving of the two courses, but it was certainly no push over. “It was very windy out there but I didn’t get into any trouble,” said Firth, who says that the wind helps him to concentrate. “I don’t mind where I finish, I just want to qualify and I know Ganton is going to be hard tomorrow.”
His score, returned at the end of the day, was one better than Gian-Marco Petrozzi (Trentham) who had set out to play as low as possible. “It wasn’t easy today, especially after our practice round in the flat calm. It played a lot differently, but it was score-able. I’ve heard from my friends that Ganton isn’t easy so I thought I’d get as far under as I could so I’d have less pressure tomorrow.”
Two shots off the lead is a group of five players who all shot 69 at South Cliff: Bradley Bawden (Rochford Hundred), David Wicks (Sedlescombe), Lewis George (Delamere Forest), George Baylis (Mill Ride) and Haider Hussein (The Kendleshire).
At Ganton, stories abounded of the effects of the steadily strengthening wind at of hard bounces, deep rough and lost balls. But Laird Shepherd (pictured below, © Leaderboard Photography) managed a level par round despite playing the course blind.
He returned from Croatia yesterday with two medals from the European University Games, helping Stirling University win the men’s gold for golf and also taking the individual bronze.
He got round the lack of practice by putting his dad on the bag and trusting the lines he picked. He’s also used to the wind as a member of Rye but even so, he said afterwards: “This was probably the toughest round of golf I’ve ever played.”
Shepherd, 18, added: “You’ve just got to stay positive and enjoy the challenge.”
Teenage international Will Enefer matched Shepherd’s score and echoed his views: “I think that was the hardest round of golf I’ve played, it was just a case of hanging in there. After the practice round I thought it was difficult and the wind today made it another five times harder.”
He made his score with good driving, which avoided the rough, but he was caught by five fairway bunkers. However, he had a great putting touch once he reached the greens. “I holed a lot of putts, including one from off the green for par, which kept me going.”
The better scorers at Ganton generally left their drivers in the bag. Mark Collins (Chart Hills) for example, used a three-wood twice and otherwise stuck with his two-iron as he worked his to 74. “I enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s a challenge and I prefer it when it’s like that and you have to plot your way round the golf course.”
There were also scoring highlights, for example Patrick Ruff (Sutton Coldfield) used the wind to drive the 14th and claim a birdie for his 74. Meanwhile, Alex Fitzpatrick (Hallamshire) eagled the long ninth and birdied the 10th en route to 75.
After tomorrow’s second qualifying round, when all competitors will have played both courses, the leading 64 players and ties will go forward to the matchplay.