The weather generally plays a key role in golf and it was never truer than on day one of the Brabazon Trophy at Formby which ended with Yorkshire’s Nick Marsh on top of the leaderboard.
The 18 year old from Huddersfield posted a two-under-par 70 in the second game out at 7.10am, a score that stood throughout a day in which the early starters gained from the calm conditions before a testing wind added to the questions posed by this superb course.
Marsh (image © Tom Ward) has a one shot lead over a group of players on 71, including internationals Nathan Kimsey and Jordan Smith, but many others shot high numbers, while only eight of the 150-strong field finished under par.
It wasn’t surprising that Marsh, who was a quarter finalist in last week’s Amateur Championship, was happy with his score. “It wasn’t bad for an opening round,” he said modestly. “It could have better as I had two three-putts but going out early certainly helped. But I gained a lot of confidence from last week at the Amateur.
“This is a great course. I love it. It’s only my second time here. I played a county match here against Lancashire a few years ago and the layout is unbelievable. But if you hit it offline you are going to get punished as the rough is tough.”
Marsh built his game with a run of three successive birdies from the eighth while another at 17 saw him secure his one shot advantage.
Kimsey was not a happy bunny after going out in 40, three over par, then dropping another shot at the tenth. But five birdies in the eight holes from there saw him back in 31 and brought a smile to his face.
Smith had four birdies on his card, all in the opening ten holes but bogeys at 15 and 17 brought him back to the field.
Alfie Plant, the 20-year-old Kent champion, was another on 71 after coming home in 33. On his first visit to Formby, he was among the also-rans until his birdied the last three holes in style.
Also on 71 are two Irishmen, Dermot McElroy and Brian Casey. McElroy, an Irish international from Ballymena, who finished second in the Scottish Open Stroke Play, might have had the lead on his own. But he bogeyed the 16th then missed birdie chances from five feet at the 17th and from 15 feet at the last.
Casey, at 22, two years older than McElroy, is on a three-week visit from County Meath, which hasn’t been too successful until now. “I’ve had a run of missed cuts so it is nice to do something decent on a great golf course,” he said.
The blustery wind didn’t faze him either. “I’m used to these conditions,” he added. “But it is tough to get the ball near the hole and you can’t afford to press too hard.”
The ever reliable Neil Raymond, who could make history this week if he can win the title for the third successive year, opened with a birdie-free 74 containing 16 pars, while Ryan Evans, winner of the Berkshire Trophy last weekend, went one better with 73.
Cumbria’s Seb Crookall-Nixon, back from his first year at college in San Francisco, started with 75 in the wind but wasn’t too disappointed. “I hit the ball well but I didn’t putt well which has been my strength in recent times,” he said.
Callum Shinkwin, another international, felt he should have been leading and it was hard to disagree after he signed for a level par 72 which included a triple-bogey eight at the 17th where he lost his ball off the tee.
“I’d been hitting the driver well all day until then,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for that I would have had the lead,” added the Moor Park man, whose card also included an eagle-three at the third.