Sam Bairstow hopes priceless lessons learned at The Open can give him an edge this week as he battles to win the English Men’s Amateur Championship.
The England international today booked his place in the last 32 with a 3&2 victory against former boys’ squad player Max Hopkins at Moortown Golf Club.
On a day when top seed Dominic Barron Holden fell in the first match of the round of 64 to 16-year-old Sam Easterbrook and second seed Haider Hussain bowed out in the afternoon to Matt Gauntlett on the 20th hole, there was no such hiccup for Yorkshire’s Bairstow.
Two weeks ago, the Hallowes member was teeing it up in the 149th Open at Royal St George’s and enjoying practice rounds with Tommy Fleetwood, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Danny Willett.
The whole experience of being part of the biggest golfing show on the planet can only help him in his quest this week and beyond.
Bairstow said: “It was an amazing experience – walking into the players’ lounge and seeing Rory McIlroy sitting next to you eating food and I had some practice rounds with Fleetwood, Westwood, Mickelson and Willett.
“It was good to see my game up against them and see what I need to work on and what’s all right.
“They are just so used to it and know what they are doing. Ultimately it boils down to putting from 12 feet. They don’t look like missing.
“The other day it felt like teeing up at my own course compared to that (the Open)! I didn’t think I was going to hit the ball, but I got it away.
“This week I’ll stick to my course plan, hit it into zones and commit to every shot.
“I struggled in the stroke play and did better today so I want to carry that on.”
Bairstow admitted he was scrappy at the start of his round of 64 clash, but conquered the howling wind and then closed the game out with birdies on his final two holes.
“I quite enjoy playing in the wind,” he added.
“It gives you a lot more definition on the shots.”
Easterbrook’s win against top seed Barron Holden was something of an upset given the stroke play qualifying results.
The Wishaw golfer qualified right on the mark thanks to a countback and was ranked 64th seed.
However, Easterbrook won the Scottish Boys’ Under 16 title last month at Dumfries and County and showed good form at times in both the McGregor and Carris.
The Warwickshire county player got off to a fast start to go two up after three holes and never looked back.
In contrast, his rival only finished the qualifying at 8.30pm on Wednesday night and looked a little flat when he teed off in the match play just 11 hours later.
Easterbrook said: “I didn’t play good at Headingley and then came back here and in tough conditions I played well, holed some good putts and had a chip in. It feels good.
“I won the second and the third and it calmed the nerves and you can relax and go from there.
“I feel like I can take some momentum into tomorrow and maybe the the next few days.”
In the wind and early morning chill there were also good wins for England boys’ squad players Frank Kennedy (3&2 over Dan Kirkwood), Jack Bigham (6&4 against Kale Heath) and Josh Hill (2&1 against Jack Sallis).
Men’s squad players Arron Edwards-Hill and Joe Harvey also secured safe passage to the last 16 with wins against Will Marshall and Steve Capper respectively.
Harvey reached the final of the Amateur Championship last year and the last eight of the English Amateur in 2019.
The Gloucestershire golfer remains confident in his own ability to go all the way this year.
“I definitely think I can win this but I’m sure every other person thinks the same,” he confirmed.
“My chipping has improved over the last few weeks. I’ve been good in practice and just hadn’t taken it to the golf course.”
For Harvey, life is simple this week – right down to the level of his ‘cheap and cheerful’ accommodation!
“We’re staying at a student campus,” he said with a smile. “It’s not luxurious, but it’s cheap and is a good location only three miles from the course.
“No partying for me, though – I’m too old for that now!”
In the afternoon flight of the draw the weather remained cold and blustery. That did not deter the players from serving up some good golf.
Gauntlett’s win against Hussain came with a quite a back story. The West Herts golfer thought he’d missed the cut on Wednesday, checked out his hotel and headed off down the M1.
Then he saw scoring deteriorate and spent five hours in a service station waiting to find out if he made it into the match play.
“I was 105th after my round and drove an hour and a half before a friend texted me and told me to pull in,” confirmed Gauntlett.
“After five hours I realised I’d finished 63rd and we drove back north and checked back into the hotel.
“My goal for this week was to get into the match play. I saw the number one seed had lost in the morning so I knew anything could happen.”
Walker Cup player Jack Dyer continues to make steady progress having flown under the radar in qualifying before beating Doncaster’s Josh Berry 2&1.
England men’s squad player Jack Brooks is also through to Friday after a 5&3 win against James Zytinski from Royal Ashdown Forest.