Jack Buchanan lapped up his first experience of links golf before setting his sights on becoming the latest South African success story of the summer.
The kid from Cape Town had never pegged it up on a true links course until he pitched up this week at Silloth on Solway for the Carris Trophy.
Perhaps inspired by one of England’s finest linksland courses, Buchanan carded a best of the day round of 66.
A six-under par round featuring six birdies and an eagle gave him a one-shot lead over English Under 18 champion Tyler Weaver and Kent’s Jake Antoun.
The quality of the golf on show was demonstrated by the leaderboard. You had to scan beyond the top 20 before discovering a player shooting par or worse.
For Buchanan, the opportunity to become the latest in a recent line of South African winners on English soil is an appealing thought.
Christiaan Maas started the ball rolling when he won the Brabazon Trophy at Saunton in May.
Jonathan Broomhead won the Amateur qualifiers and then Aldrich Potgieter won The R&A Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Could Buchanan make it another Springbok success?
He said: “I’d love that – the South Africans have played in four championships and won three of them. I’d love to make it four out of five!
“I still have three more rounds and a lot of golf. The weather is going to get worse so I have to control myself, adapt to the conditions and it should be good.”
Back home, Buchanan plays on a linksy course called Milnerton.
But even that didn’t prepare him for the variety of shots needed on a fiery English coastal track where putter from 20 yards off the green is a smart option and wedges can carry 140 yards and run another 80!
“I’ve learned a few shots,” added the South African with a smile.
“The first practice round, I played a few days ago. On five tee shots I had no idea which way you were going and you’re just trying to find the fairway and keep it out the long grass.
“Some of the shots you get to play are quite amazing.”
It was no surprise to anyone who has witnessed him play this summer that the name ‘Weaver’ was high on the leaderboard.
The Suffolk golfer normally strikes the ball with laser-like accuracy but admitted he didn’t have his best day off the tee.
However, Weaver, the England boys’ squad member, still knocked it round in 67 and made it look stress-free in the process.
“There was nothing spectacular out there – I just birdied four par fives and rolled in a nice putt for a two on the ninth,” admitted the 17-year-old who this week earned a step up to the England men’s team for the Home International at Ballyliffin.
“I missed some fairways which isn’t like me, but still played solidly and I’m happy with that start on this course.”
All the best scores, perhaps unsurprisingly, came from the early starters.
In true Cumbrian fashion, the day of the great British heatwave started with cloud and light rain!
It was actually pleasant for the first three hours of play and that contributed to the glut of good scores from the early groups before the sun broke through and the wind picked up for the afternoon starters.
Another player to make hay before the sun shone was Antoun who rattled off six birdies and dropped just the one shot as he signed for a 67.
He said: “It was tough out there. I thought I played some really solid stuff.
“I’ve been swinging the club well and to finally get a good score feels really good.
“Five-under shows pretty fairly how I played.
“Teeing off at 7.20 helps on the hottest day of the year – hopefully I don’t need to use a towel tomorrow!”
Niall Shiels Donegan lives in California and is more accustomed than most of his rivals to hotter conditions.
However, his four-under par round and clever navigation of the links drew more from his Scottish roots. The Scotland boys’ squad member is another player who has the game to flourish this week.
It wasn’t only the leaders who had reasons to be cheerful. Jack Lee (pictured above) bagged the third hole-in-one of his fledgling career en route to a one-over par round of 73.
The Rochester and Cobham Park golfer pulled out a 7-iron for the 202 yard, 12th hole.
He then had a change of mind, dropped down to an 8-iron and watched his shot land softly and roll into the cup.
After tomorrow’s second round, the top 60 players and those tied for 60th will progress to round three.
- In the Nations Cup element of the championship, the English trio of Weaver, Dylan Shaw-Radford and Josh Berry lead the way on a combined score of -7.
- Ben Bolton from Enville is in pole position for the Hazards Salver awarded to the top player under the age of 16 after an opening round of 70 (-2).