Harley Smith lived up to his billing as one of the favourites for the McGregor Trophy by carding a four under par round of 67 to top the day one leaderboard.
The England boys’ squad player has been in fine form this season – as witnessed by his performance in making the last 16 of The R&A’s Amateur Championship last month at Nairn.
This week he arrived at Camberley Heath Golf Club hoping to continue that form and duly delivered with a round that featured six birdies and just two dropped shots.
Smith leads by one in Surrey from a trio of players – Luke Jenkins from Rochester and Cobham Park, Wentworth’s Daniel Prince and Drew Sykes from Goodwood.
With benign weather conditions and greens softened by recent rains, the course was set up for low scoring and the under 16 boys’ field didn’t disappoint.
In total there were 15 players under par for their first round – highlighting the quality on show around a course totalling 6,335 yards and playing to a par of 71.
The race to make the halfway cut on Wednesday ahead of 36 holes on Thursday promises to be an exciting one.
After his round, Smith, from Rayleigh in Essex, was pleased at how he constructed a positive score.
“I didn’t get off to the best of starts and got lucky on the first hole after hitting it right – but made a really good up and down,” he commented.
“Then I capitalised by birdieing the next two holes. For the first nine I was three under. I’m happy with my round.
“I had a lot of confidence from the British Am.
“I got to the match play and beat two very good players and then lost to the home favourite – Calum Scott.
“I was happy – I achieved what I wanted to achieve and now I’ve had a nice start and I’m four under.
“I just set myself a goal – I know I am one of the favourites, but I set a goal of playing well, set a scoring goal for the week, try to achieve that and see what happens.”
Before Smith’s afternoon charge, the early pacesetter was Jenkins who was rarely troubled in a round featuring five birdies.
Like many of the 143 starters in the field, Jenkins plotted his way around the course favouring accuracy off the tee rather than length to cope with Camberley Heath’s small landing areas.
“I was playing safe off the tee and trying to give myself a chance of birdies and some went in,” admitted Jenkins.
“I’ve prepared and practised well for this competition, so I was looking forward to it.
“I definitely like this course – you need to think your way around it which is what I like. It’s a nice layout and in good condition – perfect really.
“My long distance putting I was leaving a couple of feet short and will work on that – apart from that I just need to keep doing what I did today.”
Wentworth’s Prince didn’t have far to travel for this event and could call on dad Marc, a member at Camberley Heath, for advice (pictured below).
However, there was a drawback with tapping into the local knowledge. Prince joked: “Well, he would try if he was good at golf!
“I’ll just try and enjoy it, take in the moment and play as well as I can.”
The third player on three under for his round was Sykes. The Sussex golfer birdied the opening hole, reached the turn in two under and that set the tone for a round of 68.
He added: “It settled the nerves and got me into the round nicely.
“It was a really good front nine.
“My course strategy was really good – I made sure I was in the right positions and gave myself easy putts and was able to capitalise most of the time.”
Josh Berry (pictured above) from Doncaster – another of the England boys’ squad looking to get in the mix this week – is well in the hunt after a two under par round of 69.
He said: “I’m pretty confident for the week and have a good gameplan. I’m happy where the swing is and looking forward to the next few days.
“I’m definitely getting more consistent, a lot of confidence so we’ll see how it goes. I’m getting better at short game and lag putting and the all-round game is better.”
Photography/video credit: Leaderboard