Missing the cut in your previous two events is not the best preparation for the biggest English championship of the season. But it didn’t cause Ciaran Doherty any problems as he shared top spot with Cornwall’s Tom Fox and Norway’s Sebastian Mork Andersen after the first round of the Brabazon Trophy.
The trio returned five-under-par 68s around the testing Seaton Carew course which leaves them a shot clear of the field on a day of somewhat benign conditions on the Durham coast when 44 players bettered the par of 73.
Doherty and Fox had seven birdies on their cards to upstage a field of internationals while for Lancastrian Doherty it helped erase the memory of missed cuts at the St Andrews Links and Berkshire Trophies.
While many players used their drivers sparingly, opting for a long iron off many tees, Doherty whipped his driver from the bag on most holes; “it makes the course a lot shorter,” he quipped. “Of all the clubs in my bag it’s the one I hit the straightest,” added the 24 year old from Bury.
“I had a good start with birdies at the first two holes and I also birdied the fourth to be out in 31.” Although he dropped a shot at the tenth, one of just two bogeys, further birdies came at the 11th, 12th and 18th while his tally could have been even greater but for three-putts at the 13th and 14th for pars.
“It’s my first time at Seaton Carew but we play a lot of links courses in Lancashire so I’m at home here,” he added.
Fox, 23, the deputy golf manager at China Fleet in Saltash, was making his Brabazon debut and visiting Seaton Carew for the first time. Despite being one over par through the first three holes, the South West stroke play champion said: “I don’t think I missed a fairway. My approach play was good, I knocked it close and had a lot of tap-ins. Long may it continue.”
Norway’s Mork Andersen was one of the last players out and had six birdies in his 68.
Four players returned 69 including England squad members Tomasz Anderson, Seb Crookall-Nixon and Ben Stow, all at college in the United States.
Anderson, 22, admitted he made a slow start being one over for the first eight holes. But he covered the remaining ten holes in five under including a 30-yard chip-in for eagle at the 521-yard 11th.
Having reached the last 32 of last week’s Amateur Championship in Ireland, Anderson said: “You have to learn the skills of playing links courses. I’ve been working hard with my coach, Peter Cherry at Ashridge on preparation, course management and getting my mind right. It seems to be working”.
Crookall-Nixon, 20, twice the English under 16 champion before enhancing his career at college in San Francisco, was another to find seven birdies in his 69, making his score by covering the inward nine in three under.
“I missed a couple of chances on the front nine but I holed a few putts coming home,” he said. “Usually there is a tricky wind here but there wasn’t much today. “I had a difficult start to my season in America but it got better towards the end with a couple of top ten finishes. I changed my swing coach recently and things are looking better.”
Also on 69 is Suffolk’s Jack Cardy, who found five birdies and suffered just one dropped shot, at the 17th. “I got under par quite quickly and kept the momentum going,” he said. “I had seven birdie chances on the front nine but only managed to take three. “It’s a good start but there is a long way to go and there are a lot of good players here.”
The Brabazon hasn’t been too kind to Cardy. Last year at Formby he was lying third after two rounds but then had to pull out with a back injury. “I had trouble with a tree on the third and although I played on for a few more holes I had to quit,” he added. “Fortunately there aren’t many trees here but you can find trouble with a gorse bush.”
Among those on 70, three under par, is Ashley Chesters, the European Amateur champion and England international and Scottish cap Adam Dunton.
Defending champion Jordan Smith was disappointed with his 72. “There is pressure when you are defending champion,” he said. “My front nine was a bit scrappy and my iron play was not at its best. The back nine was better but I just need to get my putter a little hotter to shoot low numbers.”
Source: England Golf