Mason leads the way

Carl Mason, top of the Order of Merit with European Seniors Tour wins at Woburn last week and previously in Wales and Germany, is joint leader of the 51st PGA Seniors Championship at Stoke by Nayland after the opening round.

By Tony Garnett

Carl Mason, top of the Order of Merit with European Seniors Tour wins at Woburn last week and previously in Wales and Germany, is joint leader of the 51st PGA Seniors Championship at Stoke by Nayland after the opening round.

The consistent Mason had an eagle at the 565-yard 14th to help him to five-under-par to match Canadian Bruce Heuchan, who was back in the clubhouse some three hours earlier.

Heuchan emerged as a surprise pacemaker. He would have been six under had he not dropped a shot on par-three final hole after missing the green.


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Although he was a professional player, Heuchan spent nine years as a caddie on the US PGA Tour. Now he is one of the Senior Tour's most consistent players who is often thereabouts but has yet to make the big breakthrough. He finished 19th in the money list in 2005 and 23rd last year. He is 38th in the current Order of Merit

Sam Torrance, winner for the past two years, was one over after 10 and seemingly out of sorts. He was short with a six-foot birdie putt on the ninth but came back strongly with three birdies in his final five holes. He is tied 14th at present but only three shots off the pace.

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Denis Watson, over from the United States where he won the PGA Seniors in his country, was playing in the same group as Torrance and is also two under par.

Thirty-five players finished under par. The cut comes after today's second round when the top 60 and ties go forward to the third and fourth rounds. At present two over par would be good enough.

Costantino Rocca birdied two of his first three holes and was four under at the turn and going well. He escaped from possible trouble at the fourth. His tee shot ended blocked out by a tree on the left but he played a marvellously contrived shot that left him 25 yards from the green. He was thankful that the fairway was cut low because he putted stone dead for a par.

Rocca came down to earth with splash at the 10th when his tee shot found the lake. A double bogey saw him back to two under which he was able to improve by one to leave him in a challenging position with three rounds to go.

Gordon Brand, another former Ryder Cup player, was always tidy but let too many birdie opportunities slip away.

Suffolk's Robin Mann from Felixstowe Golf Range was in the illustrious company of Rocca and Brand. His driving was wayward, some of his recovery shots were excellent but his 77 means he has plenty of work to do if he is to make the cut after today's second round. Mann's honest assessment was: “I played better when I was 14 years old.”

Martin Poxon was level par after five holes and then had a run of four successive birdies including chipping in out of a bunker on the seventh. All the good work was undone by four successive bogeys at the start of his second nine. Guiseppe Cali, with former Stoke by Nayland captain Alec Giddens as his caddie, was in the same group and is very much in the mix at three under par.

Frank Hill of Thorpeness and John Hudson of Rivenhall Oaks, both now in the super sixties age bracket, ended with 84s. “I was striking the ball well but got into a run of bogeys which I was unable to stop,” said Hill, the captain of the PGA East Region.

There was a good crowd for an opening day but there will be many more over the weekend.

Key tee-off times today

7.50: Encina, Gale, Hill. 8.10: Cali, Murray, Poxon. 8.50: Quiros, Horton, Gray. 9.00: Spurgeon, Bruner, Cameron. 9.10: Torrance, Watson, Stirling. 9.20: Rivero, Mason, Rhodes. 9.40: Longmuir, Stelten, Cambridge. 12.30: Gutterman, Laggoune, Hudson. 1.00: Bland, Dekker, Oakley. 1.10: Rocca, Mann, Brand. 1.20: Barber, Job, Russell. 1.40: Larratt, Burroughs, Heuchan. 2.00: Teravainen, Price, Fernandez.

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