England internationals Ben Schmidt and Joe Long are among five players who share the lead after day one of the English Men’s Amateur Championship.
In bright sunshine, but with winds gusting up to 40 miles an hour, scoring was tricky on both the Hotchkin and Bracken Courses at Woodhall Spa Golf Club.
Schmidt and Long fired three under par rounds of 70 on the Hotchkin to set a marker.
That tally was also matched by Kings Hill’s Jacob Kelso, Sam Done from Kenwick Park and Players Club member Jack Cope who were all round in 69 on the par 72 Bracken Course.
There are currently 20 players separated by just two shots at the top of the leaderboard going into day two of the stroke play.
After the second round of stroke play, the top 64 qualify for the match play which will come to a climax with a 36-hole final on Sunday.
Yorkshireman Schmidt’s ascent to the top of the leaderboard on day one was in keeping with his recent form in big events.
The 2019 Brabazon Trophy winner started this year with a win at the New South Wales Open in Australia.
And he’s hoping that he can celebrate his 18th birthday on Thursday in some style with another good week at one of the flagship events in the England Golf calendar.
Schmidt said: “The wind was messing with my head a bit on the front nine as it was so tough. It got worse on the back nine but I cleared my head and tried not think about it.
“It was definitely hard out there. I hit a nice shot into 15 for a gimme birdie and a 12-footer on 16 and then rolled a nice one from 40-foot for eagle on 18 which was nice.
“Obviously I had a good start to this year in Australia and got a win and then had a break because of coronavirus.
“I had a break and played well at the Tillman Trophy the other week. I’m confident and feeling good.”
Long’s tilt at success comes two years after he lost in the final of the championship to Tom Thurloway.
The England Men’s squad player reached the turn in three under par after birdies at the third, fifth and ninth holes.
A dropped shot at 13 was picked up again with a birdie finish on 18 and Long admitted: “I started off sloppily and then chipped in for birdie on three and steadied the ship with another on five.
“I hit some good tee shots in the wind but played solidly on the back nine. I’m happy with it to be honest.
“I came into the week to enjoy it – it’s great to be back playing golf after our long break. I had no expectations for the week – I’m just trying to enjoy it.
“You just need to get through the stroke play and anything can happen in match play. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected on the golf course.
“I got to the final two years ago and wasn’t far away but learned a lot from not winning it.
“Fingers crossed I can go one step further this week.”
Defending champion Conor Gough had a day to learn from after a round of 87 (+14) all but scuppered his chances of repeating last year’s heroics.
Photograph credit: Leaderboard