New senior Whittaker sets the championship pace

Ian Attoe

New senior Tim Whittaker underlined a rapid start to his new golfing chapter when he set the pace in the first round of English senior men’s open amateur championship in Surrey.

Whittaker, from Beaconsfield, shot one-under par 68 at West Hill and tops a leaderboard of 288 players who enjoyed glorious golfing weather. His closest challengers, who both scored level par 71 at neighbouring Worplesdon, are Ian Attoe (Image © Leaderboard Photography), who was playing at his home club, and Andrew Atkinson from Windermere.

A host of players are tightly packed behind. David Niven (Newbury & Crookham) and Martin Wild (Mere) share third place on one-over, while defending champion Stephen East (Moortown) is in a group of players who are a further shot back.

Whittaker has just entered the senior age group and has swapped work for golf: “I thought it was time!” he said. He launched his senior career by winning the recent BB&O championship before turning his attention to this event.

He was the only player to beat par today, but left the course feeling he could have done better. “I hit the ball quite well and created a lot of opportunities, but didn’t take quite as many as I would have liked.”

Nevertheless he had five birdies in his round: on three consecutive holes from the 5th and back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13. And he declared: “It’s a very nice start to senior golf.”

Ian Attoe is another player who is following the dream of giving up work – as a golf club secretary – to concentrate on senior golf. This is his first appearance in this championship and playing at home at Worplesdon brought both pressure and the advantage of local knowledge from 40 years of membership.

“I was a bit nervous and it wasn’t my best golf, but it was good scoring,” said Attoe, who had two birdies and an eagle three on the 15th in his round.

This is his first season of senior competition and he’s already won a couple of UK Senior Golf Association events and shared fifth place in the recent Irish seniors. “It’s been a good start,” he said.

Andrew Atkinson is yet another new senior who is excited by the challenge of senior golf – and has been quick to get started. He’s already played in Spanish, Portuguese and Irish championships, before teeing up in this event. “I’ve been looking forward to it and I’ve made lots and lots of new friends,” he remarked.

Today, he set off in great style at Worplesdon and was three-under after eight before he “just frittered a few shots away. I drove the ball very well, hit lots of greens in regulation and, with the exception of one short putt, I putted ok.”

Stephen East was the “new boy” last year and his triumph in this championship launched a memorable year in which he also won the Spanish seniors, was runner-up in the British, Scottish and Irish seniors and won the England Golf senior order of merit. He’s started 2015 with another win, in the Portuguese seniors, but today he took time to settle to his round at Worplesdon.

“It’s great to be defending but, to be honest, I was a bit nervous and I’m quite happy to finish with 73. I played poorly on the way out, but I was better on the back nine.”

He played the inward half in two-under par, with four birdies, including one on the 18th where he holed a 20-footer.

The shot of the day was provided by Glen MacBryde (Trentham) who had a hole-in-one on the 171-yard fourth at Worplesdon, using a four iron. “It was a good hole in one in that it never left the flag,” said MacBryde – and he’s experienced in these matters, having had five previous aces.

It helped him to an eight-over par 79 and MacBryde, the three-times Midland senior champion, remarked: “I’m very pleased, I played quite well but just frittered away a few shots. It’s an absolutely fantastic golf course, so fair if you hit good shots.”

After tomorrow’s second round – played again on both Worplesdon and West Hill – the field will be cut to the leading 80 players and ties. They will play the final round on Friday at Worplesdon.

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