England’s Todd Clements matched the hot temperatures with hot golf to take the first round lead in the Brabazon Trophy with a new record of seven-under 66 on the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa.
He came home in six-under par and is a stroke ahead of Lytham Trophy winner Jack Singh Brar, who also played the back nine in 31; and of Alexandre Fuchs of France, who had a hotter-than-hot streak of eagle, eagle, birdie in his round.
Fuchs’ run included a hole-in-one on the fifth, playing 163 yards to the pin, where three more players also went on to score aces.
Among them was Ireland’s Robin Dawson and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, who both went on to score 68. They share fourth place with Edgar Catherine of France, Haydn Barron of Australia and England’s Jack Gaunt.
Seb Crookall-Nixon (Silloth on Solway) also broke 70 on a low-scoring day which saw more than 30 players beat par in the first round of the English men’s amateur open stroke play championship.
Clements (Braintree) is playing in the Brabazon for the first time, having qualified in second place at Littlestone last week. His iron play was in exceptional shape and he repeatedly fired the ball close to the pin.
“My iron play was just on today,” said Clements. “I could have been a couple better but I’m happy with that score, really pleased – but there’s a long way to go.” His score becomes a new record following changes to the Hotchkin course.
Singh Brar, pictured right, (Remedy Oak) played the course in similar style, hitting 16 greens in regulation and taking his birdie opportunities on the back nine. “I really committed to every shot, made my decisions and stuck to them and I did play really nicely,” he said.
Two of the talking points of the day were Alexandre Fuchs’ remarkable scoring run – and the four holes in one.
Fuchs was level par as he approached the fourth and holed his pitching wedge from 130 yards for his first eagle. Next was his first hole-in-one with an eight iron on the fifth and then he got up and down for birdie on six.
“I’m very happy because after my two eagles I continued to play my own game. I had my plan, not to make two-one, but to play freely on the par fives and I did that.”
As for the other holes-in-one: Ireland’s Robin Dawson also used an eight iron and also recorded his first ace. “I missed a 3ft putt for par on the fourth and I was a little annoyed so it was nice to step on the next and get a hole in one.”
Halfway down the next hole he’d forgotten all about it as he pushed on with his round. “That’s a good thing, I was just concentrating on what I was doing and I took the opportunities for birdies on the last six holes.”
MacIntyre, the world number six, took a nine iron to score his fifth ace, but said: “After that everything went flat for three holes. After a hole in one it can go either way and I’m happy with five-under, I’m right in the thick of things.” He made his score on the back nine with three birdies and an eagle on the 521-yard 14th which he reduced to a drive, eight iron and a 12ft putt.
Joining them in the group on 68 is England’s Jack Gaunt (Drayton Park), who was five-under going out, with four birdies in a row from the fifth. He was runner-up in last weekend’s Welsh stroke play and said: “It’s good to bring the form with me, I didn’t put myself in any trouble and the longest putt I holed for birdie was 20ft.”
Edgar Catherine is among a nine-strong group of French players at the championship and arrives in good form having finished third in last week’s French amateur. His excellent iron play set up six birdies, most of them from short range.
Haydn Barron has travelled with two other Australians and last night they drew up a game plan which brought good results for the 21-year-old. “I felt I really stuck to the plan and hit lots of fairways and greens,” he said. His score included three consecutive birdies from the ninth, where he played a great flop shot despite being short sided.
“I love the course, it reminds me a lot of courses back home in the Melbourne area. It suits me eye,” added Barron who didn’t take up golf until he was 16, despite the earlier efforts of his golfing parents.
The fourth hole in one came from Jacob Oakley (Styal), who used a wedge and who was also recording his first ace. "It was nice because I got off to a bit of a bad start, then I made a couple more mistakes, but I had a decent back nine." Oakley, who is playing in the Brabazon for th first time, shot two-over par 75.
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