Congested at top of the leaderboard

THIRTY players are within four shots of the lead after the opening round of the MCP Classic at Ufford Park, the final PGA Europro Tour event of the season in Britain.

THIRTY players are within four shots of the lead after the opening round of the MCP Classic at Ufford Park, the final PGA Europro Tour event of the season in Britain.

Joint leaders, with two rounds to play, are Irishman Michael McDermott and former European Tour player John Morgan. Both are four under par.

Ian Ellis of Royal Norwich is two shots off the pace while Warren Bennett, introduced on the tee as Warren Beatty, is in a clutch of 11 players at one under.

Strangely the better scoring came in the afternoon session despite the fact that quite a blustery breeze made conditions more difficult. Fortunately threatening clouds never produced any rain.


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Luke Miller, the former Woodbridge member and now a PGA trainee at Slaley Hall in the North East, produced a steady one-over-par round of 71. His golf seems more controlled than in his amateur days and he will have enjoyed his eagle three at the first, his 10th, when he put his approach shot less than a foot from the pin.

Miller, with his father Peter as his caddy, is among 17 players lying 31st equal that also include former Ufford Park winner Chris Sands. The top 50 and ties make the cut which comes after today's round. Currently those at two over are 48th equal.

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Miller was playing with Paul Hendricksen, who led the field in the first stage of the European Tour qualifying school when 18 under par after four rounds at Golf de Moliets.

The main battle at Ufford is for the players anxious to make the top 50 in the Order of Merit so they qualify for the Tour Championship in The Azores.

Essex challengers Jason Levermore of Clacton and Justin Brown of Gosfield Lake both had very early starts. Their target was to be in the top 50, Levermore starting at 47th and Brown 62nd.

Levermore enjoyed life while the dew was still on the ground. He birdied the par-five first and then had an eagle at the 386-yard second. Another birdie at the fifth maintained his flying start, but then the golfing gods ceased to be friendly.

He dropped his first shot at the sixth. At the eighth, a dogleg right, his ball lodged high up a cedar tree never to be seen again. He dropped two shots there, another at the ninth and 15th to end one over par. He is in line to make the cut but may need to shoot level par.

Brown has had a frustrating season. He has at times played well enough to suggest that he can progress up the professional ladder but has never quite grasped his opportunities. He is still young, has talent, but six over par yesterday left him tied in 88th place.

Robin Mann of Felixstowe Golf Range, also flying the flag of Halesworth Golf Club, hoped that the magic in his play that enabled him to shoot 64 round St Mellion in the European Seniors Tour last month would remain. Sadly he also ended at six over par.

Lawrence Dodd of Bury St Edmunds, the former England amateur international who has joined the professional ranks, was more than holding his own at one over par after 15 holes. Then he dropped five shots in his final three holes to slide down the leader board.

It was a disappointing day too for Andrew Cotton, who also comes from Bury St Edmunds, who was representing host club Ufford Park. He ended at nine over par and needs something close to a course record today if he is to make the cut.

Adam Gee, beaten finalist in the British Amateur Championship at Royal St Georges, has also turned professional. He was with a late withdrawal and will soon discover all about PGA fines.

Zane Scotland also withdrew on the eve of the event. His reason was a call-up to the Challenge Tour event in Toulouse after his good showing in Kazakhstan last week which is permitted. Last year's winner, Robert McGuirk of Princes, has not played for some time because of a leg injury.

First round scores

66: M McDermott (Ireland), J Morgan (Clevedon).

67: N Fox (Ireland), S Whiffin (Enfield), L Gauthier (East Berkshire).

68: I Ellis (Royal Norwich), G Gordon (Scotland), K Harper (East Devon), N Treacher (England), M Morris (England), C Smith (Wales).

69: I Parnaby (Ramside), S Robinson (The Wynyard), S Doherty (Bury), W Bennett (England), M Mills (Wentworth), D Prosser (Stourbridge), J Kavanagh (Stoke Park), C Kelly (Scotland), M Woods (Donnington Grove), C Billing (England), L Wood (England).

70: D Gaunt (Australia), M Searle (Woodbury Park), M Smith (Erewash Valley), A Willey (Ramsdale Park), M Cort (England), G Oliver (Abridge), E Vernon (Burton-on-Trent), M Watson (Weymouth).

71: D Barnes (Ferndown), J Levermore (Clacton), G Clark (England), G Brown (Scotland), P Doherty (Vale Hotel), I Keenan (Royal Liverpool), T Rice (Limerick), N Rowlands (Chipping Norton), D Fisher (Ellesborough), I Ridgway (High Legh Park), B St John (Woodcote Park) J Templer (Henley), J Ruebotham (Welwyn Garden City), G Woodman (Stoke Park), L Miller (Slaley Hall), C Sands (Surrends-Link), R Gray (Torrance House).

Other scores included

72: D Mooney (Belfast), R Claydon (Gog Magog), C Hanson (Crosland Heath).

75: L Dodd (Suffolk), D Williams (Crews Hill), M Laskey (Brocket Hall), P Hendricksen (Fingle Glen).

76: J Brown (Gosfield Lake), D Charlton (Tilsworth), R Mann (Halesworth Golf Club), A George (Ely City), C Williams (Fakenham).

77: P Ring (Boyce Hill), M Davis (Thorndon Park).

79: A Cotton (Ufford Park), R Beadles (Brampton Park).

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