English U18 Championship – Day Two: Easterbrook takes pole position

Sam Easterbrook heads into the final day of the English Under 18 Championship with a one-shot lead and a growing belief that his game is trending in the right direction.

The England boys’ squad player impressed with a second round score of 69 on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa to follow up an opening 68 and give him a halfway total of -7.

Easterbrook leads by a single shot from Harry Malin from Bognor Regis who posted a second consecutive round of 69 to reach halfway on -6.

Malin stormed down the closing stretch – playing his final 10 holes of the day in a frightening six-under par.

Tyler Weaver lies third after the Bury St Edmunds golfer posted a three-under par round of 69 to go along with a first round 70.

Day Two Leaderboard

All remaining players face another 36 holes on Sunday to determine the winner and while Easterbrook, Malin and Weaver are in excellent form, there is plenty quality in the chasing pack and the chance of more twists and turns to come.

Zach Little, from West Herts, was another player who coped well with the fast-running fairways and swirling wind.

His first-ever bogey-free round in competition has eased him into contention on -3 for the championship and fourth spot on his own.

And Sophie Fullbrook leads the charge for the girls on -1.

A member at The Melbourne, Fullbrook was off in the first group of the day and carded a brilliant round of 69.

With most players making their score on the way out and clinging on into the strengthening wind, Fullbrook reversed that trend by coming home in three-under par.

At six back, Fullbrook, along with Alexander Maxwell who is also in at -1, will need to pull out all the stops to catch Easterbrook who has been playing well all season without necessarily having the results to match.

That could change tomorrow for the 17-year-old who had 27 putts on Friday and then found his ball-striking form for round two.

“I’m really happy”, confirmed the Warwickshire golfer.

“Yesterday I scrambled well and the short game was good. Today, I struck it much better and didn’t have to rely on my putting as much.

“I wasn’t under as much pressure which is nice.

“Last week I did well (in the Amateur Championship) and my game is trending nicely so looking forward to tomorrow and a good battle against Tyler.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before something goes my way so hopefully that’s the case tomorrow.

“If I keep the mistakes off my card I’ll be good.

“Playing with Tyler in the final group will be a good laugh and I’m sure we’ll push each other all the way.”

Malin is the nearest challenger to Easterbrook – and came with a fraction of rolling home and eagle putt on 18 to tie for the lead.

“It was tough out there and it was windy the last nine holes so it was a good round.

“It all kickstarted on nine with a two-putt birdie.

“Once you get past 13 it can open up and you get to play irons and wedges which is good.

“I love the course – let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Weaver has only hit one driver so far in the championship – preferring to take irons off the tee and plot his way round the Hotchkin. It’s been a clever plan so far with only three bogeys recorded over 36 holes.

He said: “I’m extremely happy with that score in windy conditions. I played really solid.

“I’m very happy with my strategy – a lot of three irons trying to keep it low under the wind.

“My three-iron goes far enough if I just hit a low, stingy one.

“I think it will be a little bit windier on Sunday, but I don’t think my strategy needs to change.”

The sun may have been shining at the home of England Golf but the stiff breeze made scoring tough for the competitors.

Little was also chuffed with his round – and in fact his play over the last 27 holes. Little has played those holes in seven under par.

He said: “It’s been tough but I’ve enjoyed it and tried to grind it out.

“It’s my first ever bogey-free round so I’m happy with that on a tough day.

“I’m excited for it – it’ll be a long day and tough with the wind getting up. I’ll try and do the same as I did today and get the job done.”

Overnight leader McKenzie Lewis couldn’t get it going again on day two and shot 79 while Yorkshire’s Dylan Shaw-Radford – second after round one – had to settle for a 77 in the toughest of the weather.

Defending champion Jenson Forrester battled to a halfway total of +4 to make the cut.

In total, 43 players made the cut on +7.

The first group will tee off at 7.30am tomorrow in groups of three.