Gareth Bradley fired a brilliant five-under par round of 68 to lead by a shot after day one of the English Senior Men’s Amateur Championship.
The Cheshire senior county captain started his round on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa Golf Club with a birdie – and never looked back.
An impressive display of long iron play from the tee and velvet touch on the greens was enough to give Bradley a narrow advantage over Royal Ashdown Forest’s Andrew Smith.
Smith had a six-foot eagle putt at 18 to tie for the lead, but watched it slip by and had to make do with an excellent round of 69 (-4).
Defending champion Ian Attoe, Rupert Kellock from Sunningdale and Wildernesse Golf Club’s Jon Wright are a shot further back after rounds of 70 (-3).
Six birdies in Bradley’s morning round and just the one bogey allowed the golfer from Bramhall Golf Club to enjoy his lunch.
The later starters had to cope with a stiffening afternoon breeze and muggy conditions that made scoring tricky.
After his round, Bradley said: “I missed a short one on the last but I’m not complaining.
“I’m very happy with a 68, I’d have signed for 78 before I started!
“I don’t normally like bouncy conditions and tomorrow might be different.
“But I came into this playing quite well and feeling good about my game. I was second in the Northern Counties last week and have been here a few times over the years to play in the English Amateur and the British Mid-Amateur.
“Still, to get round with just the one bogey is always something to be happy about on this track.”
After his opening hole birdie, Bradley rolled in three more birdie putts at the third, sixth and ninth with just that one blemish at the seventh hole after an errant drive.
Another biride at the 10th was followed by six straight pars until he holed a 15-footer on 17.
The failure to get up and down from the back of the 18th frustrated Bradley, but he won’t let it deflect from what was an excellent start to the championship.
“I retired to play seniors golf so I’m very lucky in what I do,” he added.
“I didn’t play well at start of last year, but then came good and had five or six wins including the UK seniors, so it’s disappointing that so many have gone by the wayside this season.
“I’m off at one o clock in the heat tomorrow and I think we all have to accept that on the Bracken with all its contours, there will be bad bounces and the aim has to be to get out without too much damage done.”
Smith was annoyed at missing out on the chance of a second eagle of the day at the final hole after making one on the 14th, but was content with how he played.
“I’d have bitten your hand off for that score before I started,” he confirmed.
“Having said that, I love this type of course as it’s very similar heathland terrain to my own course at Royal Ashdown Forest and it’s right up my street.”
Three-times winner Attoe (pictured above) joined Kellock on three under par having spotted Bradley’s score just as he teed off.
“I’ve kept myself in it and having seen Gareth’s score I had something to aim for,” said Attoe.
“Tee to green I played well. But putting was a bit hit and miss. However, you can’t be upset with a 70 round here.”
Last week’s hero of the English Men’s Amateur, Paul Wharton, birdied three of the four par fives to post a two-under par score of 71.
“I played steadily all day and I’m happy with that,” added the Woodhall Spa member. “The greens were perfect and there was a good score out there for someone.”
The field of 144 now moves on to the Bracken Course for Friday’s round with the top 60 players after 36 holes making the cut and completing the 54-hole stroke play event on Saturday with another round on the Hotchkin.
Full details and scores from day one can be found on the English Senior Men’s Amateur Championship homepage.