Durham’s Richard Aisbitt takes a three-shot lead into tomorrow’s final round of the Logan Trophy at Northumberland Golf Club after a day of testing weather conditions.
He scored one-over 73, for a total of four-under, on a day when only two players from a field of 130 managed to beat par.
Aisbitt’s closest challenger in the English men’s open mid-amateur championship is Andrew Minnikin, the Northumberland county captain and, as a member of the host club, the man who carries local hopes. Hampshire’s Martin Young – a past champion – slipped back to third place, while Durham’s Gavin Nesbit moved up from 11th to fourth.
The weather challenges began with torrential rain in the morning, which delayed the start of play by almost an hour and was replaced by still, humid conditions. In turn this changed to bright sunshine and a steadily strengthening wind which tested the later players.
Aisbitt (Image © Leaderboard Photography) felt the force of the wind, particularly on the greens. “It made putting very difficult if you were anything more than 15ft away. I was knocking them 5ft past of leaving them 5ft short, which put me under pressure.”
He started well, reached the turn in two-under, but dropped shots with a run of three-putts on the back nine, before another birdie on 15. “I can’t complain and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” he said.
“At the start of the week you just want to put yourself in a position where you have a chance of winning and I’ve done that.”
He’ll be joined in tomorrow’s final group by Andrew Minnikin, who added level par 72 to his opening score of one-under.
“It was a bit frustrating because I bogeyed two of the last four holes,” he said. “But, when the wind gets up, that’s a very tough stretch and I picked up a shot on the 15th so I can’t be too disappointed. I’m still in there and keeping up with the leaders.”
Now, he’s hoping for a hot putter in the final round. “I feel as though I haven’t holed any putts in the first couple of days – the longest has been 8ft. I started well with three birdies in the first four holes, with a bogey, and kept giving myself chances – but no putts dropped.”
Former champion Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor) dropped back into third place after he came in with 76 for a level par total, but declared: “I am hanging on for dear life.
“The back nine is really brutal in the wind, I think I’d rather have played in the rain. I seemed to be always chipping or putting downwind.”
But he’s in the mix. “I’ll be in one of the last groups tomorrow – I’ll just post a score and see what happens.”
Meanwhile Durham’s Gavin Nesbit (Boldon) has moved from 11th to fourth place after a second round score of 72 for a two-over par total.
“It was a different test today in the wind and I’m happy with how I played,” said Nesbit, who is a past county matchplay champion and played this course recently in Open qualifying,
Yorkshire’s Stephen East – who has won this title three times – is in fifth place having returned 73 today in the worst of the wet weather.
Despite the rain and early cold temperatures he got to two-under on the opening holes, before a three-putt bogey on the ninth. “Then I almost missed everything I looked at on the back nine, even from 3-4ft.”
He adds it to his opening 74, compiled in yesterday’s winds. “When I saw the draw I thought it was good but we’ve had the worst of both days” he said. “But that’s just the way it goes.”
After today’s round the field was cut to the leading 45 players and ties who qualify for tomorrow’s final round. A total of 46 players made the cut, which fell on 12-over par.
Defending champion Martin Foulkes (Worksop) had to withdraw after becoming unwell with a sickness bug.
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