England’s Arron Edwards-Hill and South Africa’s Christiaan Maas made the most of benign conditions to fire blistering rounds of 65 and share top spot after day one of the Brabazon Trophy.
Out in the morning wave of players where light rain soon gave way to blue skies and a gentle breeze, Chelmsford’s Edwards-Hill (main image) made hay while the sun shone over the links at Saunton Golf Club.
Five birdies, an eagle and just the one dropped shot, allowed the England men’s squad player to sign for a score of six-under par.
In the afternoon, 18-year-old Maas dealt with the stiffening wind to reach the 10th hole in six-under par and have officials leafing through the record books.
However, a double bogey at 11 dropped him back before he finished with a flourish – picking up two shots in his final four holes to match the clubhouse total set by Edwards-Hill.
Rory Browne – off the reserve list and late into the field – and Copt Heath’s Louis Sanders carded four-under par rounds of 67 to lead the chasing pack.
Galway’s Liam Nolan was a shot further back after an excellent score of 68 (-3).
Edwards-Hill was the first to admit the weather played into the players’ hands – however, there was much more to his score than just luck with the conditions.
The Essex golfer – fresh from securing the winning point for England’s men in their weekend win against France at St-Nom-La Breteche – was in complete control of his game.
Renowned as one of the best putters on the scene, Edwards-Hill was also sound tee-to-green with his iron-play, in particular, a joy to watch.
The eagle at the par five, 15th hole was a highlight, but his general play was rewarded with the equal best round of the day.
“I’m really pleased,” he confirmed after signing for a 65.
“It was the start I was looking for and it’s good to get that first round under my belt with a few days to go.
“For my eagle, I hit driver off the tee on 15th and was pretty aggressive.
“I hit five iron next and pushed it! It ended up going straight at the pin and ran up to six feet leaving me a right-to-lefter for eagle.
“It was good to go out in the morning when it was nice and soft and be aggressive with my irons.”
For former South African amateur champion Maas (pictured above), the chance to shoot low on a links course was a real treat. Growing up on Pretoria’s tree-lined courses where distance is everything, the subtleties of links golf are not required.
“Back home you’d never play bump and runs or putt, it’s just lob wedge so it’s fun to play different shots around the greens,” admitted the teenager.
“It’s so much fun.
“I love it – you would not get me off this golf course. I’d play this course 24-7”
“I’m off early tomorrow so if the weather’s good, I hope I can post a number and then see what happens.”
Another player savouring the conditions was BB&O golfer Browne – even if he didn’t enjoy the most relaxed of preparations.
Browne was a reserve and only got into the field on Monday and that led to some hectic re-scheduling around work.
“I couldn’t get out of work until today so I didn’t have the benefit of a practice round,” confirmed Browne who set off from home near Oxford at 4.30am to reach Devon for a 9.30am tee time.
“I’ve played West of England here in the past so I knew where I was going.
“I have accommodation for tonight – and after that we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to book for the weekend and tempt fate.
“I could always sleep in the car – that way I’d get a parking spot the next day too!”
Sanders finished with a fine birdie on 18 and that is always a good feeling to take into the next round.
“I decided to putt well today – the first time in a while,” he joked.
“In recent times I’ve finished five foot away and hoped to hit the edge so that I didn’t have a two-footer back. Nice for that to change.”
Among a clutch of players at two-under par were Scotland’s Rory Franssen and English quartet Joe Harvey, Matthew Lever, Tyler Weaver (pictured below left) and Will Coxon.
Defending champion Sam Bairstow did get it to -2 early in his round before having to settle for a level par round of 71.
Weaver’s bogey-free round was worthy of extra praise if only for the way the England boys’ squad player coped with the frustration of missing three birdie putts in a row from the 15th before keeping calm to get up and down from a greenside bunker for par on the last.
In a global field featuring players from 16 nations, Australia’s Jasper Stubbs posted a fine 69.
And the Melbourne golfer was chuffed to survive his first real test of British links-style golf.
“It’s very different to what we have back home,” admitted the golfer from Victoria.
“We have a few links courses in an area near Melbourne called the Mornington peninsula but they are very different to this. This is a very tough test of golf.”
In contrast to today’s near perfect weather, Friday promises stronger wind and rain showers.
That will present a completely different challenge for the field which, on conclusion of round two, will be whittled down from 144 players to those that finish 60th or tied ahead of the weekend action.
Photography credit: Leaderboard