Stoke course tamed by pros

LENGTHENING the Gainsborough course by some 300 yards did not prevent some low scoring on the first day of the Bartercard Stoke-by-Nayland International Open event on the PGA Europro Tour.

By Tony Garnett

LENGTHENING the Gainsborough course by some 300 yards did not prevent some low scoring on the first day of the Bartercard Stoke-by-Nayland International Open event on the PGA Europro Tour.

Irishman David Jones from the City of Derry set the early pace with a round of five under par. In the afternoon John Wells, Michael Skelton and Guy Woodman also tore the course apart to become co-leaders.

Wells and Skelton made blistering starts. Wells after was four under after his first five holes while Skelton was five under after five, including three birdies and an eagle.

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Woodman started at the 10th. He was undeterred by a double-bogey at the 17th where the tee is some 80 yards back from usual, leaving a daunting drive between trees. He went to one under but produced four more birdies on what appear to be the easier nine.

It looked as though Skelton would have a clear lead as he birdied 14, 15 and 16. Then he dropped a shot on each of his final two holes.

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Five players are only one shot behind the leaders and 37 of the field of 166 are under par.

Justin Brown of Gosfield Lake, sponsored by Red Monster Sports Management, is in touch with the leaders at two under par. Supported by his club professional Richard Wheeler, he needs to maintain his concentration for two more days to secure a sizeable cheque.

Brown started at the 10th and was one under at the turn and had further birdies at the second and ninth but dropped a shot at the third.

Also on two under were Francis McGuirk from Princes, who won the Europro event at Ufford Park last year, Andrew George of Ely City and Lee Thompson (Dudsbury), who is the son of former Ipswich Town footballer Ken Thompson who was at Portman Road in the sixties.

Paul Curry, who won the corresponding event a year ago, made a slow start from the 10th tee to be two over at the turn. He recovered to end one under par and very much in contention with two rounds to go. Curry, the former European Tour and United States PGA Tour member, is on his annual break from Florida.

Andrew Tokley, on his home course, is well placed to make the cut after a level-par round. He needed to sink a 15-foot putt on the final hole after missing the green to the right. He had Suffolk county player Michael Swan on his bag for the final nine holes.

Russell Claydon, a former European Tour player, was also level par despite finding a pond on his second hole. Claydon had five birdies and five bogeys in all.

Jason Levermore of Clacton, whose triple bogey on the final hole proved so costly at Heydon Grange in the last Europro event, birdied the last two par fives to end one over par with a bit of work yet to do if he is to be involved in the final round. Stuart Levermore, Jason's father and head professional at Clacton, was an experienced caddy. Simon Harrison of Thorpeness, who was so close to wining the East Anglian Open at Braintree, had a couple of disappointing holes but was striking the ball well and has the ability to make an impact at this level.

Ian Ellis of Royal Norwich had to settle for a round of 73. He said: “It was the first time I had played the course and I was very impressed.” More can be expected from Ellis today.

Darren Charlton from Tilsworth, PGA East Region champion last year and beaten in a Europro play-off with Lee Slattery at Stoke-by-Nayland two years ago, was round in 73.

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