South Africa’s Kyle McClatchie scythed through the jostling for top spot at the Brabazon Trophy with a record-equalling 66 at Woodhall Spa Golf Club, giving him the halfway lead on 10-under par.
He was three-under yesterday and seven-under today, having holed a pitching wedge for an eagle two on the outward half, added another eagle on the back nine and also collected six birdies as his putter grew steadily hotter.
McClatchie (pictured top) will celebrate his 20th birthday on Sunday and he hopes he’s putting himself on course to a very special present, but he quickly says: “It’s still early, but this is a good position for the last two rounds.”
He heads a highly competitive field in the English men’s open amateur stroke play championship. England’s Jack Singh Brar (Remedy Oak) and Scotland’s Craig Ross are snapping at his heels on nine-under, while another Scot, world number six Robert McIntyre, is a further stroke back.
English amateur champion Dan Brown (Masham) shot 68 today to get to six-under and move into the top five. Behind him, there’s another nine Englishmen among the top 11 and ties, including fellow internationals Alfie Plant (Sundridge Park), Jake Burnage (Saunton), Sean Towndrow (Southport & Ainsdale) and Gian-Marco Petrozzi (Trentham), and the overnight leader Todd Clements (Braintree).
While the sun shone brightly again, the general consensus was that today’s breeze made conditions tougher, especially when coupled with firm, fast greens. But it certainly didn’t stop some serious tilting at the top.
Ross, the 2016 South African amateur champion, was another very low scorer with his second round of six-under 67. It hadn’t looked so promising when he was two over after three holes, but a run of five birdies from the fifth changed all that. “When I holed on five it got things back on track and then I just started to roll in some putts.
“This course is all about getting the tee shots right and I just tried to keep giving myself chances and see what happened.”
Singh Brar, who is looking for a double after his Lytham Trophy win earlier this season, moved to join Ross over the closing holes. He was level par after 12, then birdied 14, 15 and 18. “I played really nicely, probably better on the front nine than yesterday, I just didn’t hop on the birdie train, or only for a couple of stops,” he joked, referring to yesterday’s 67. “I’m in the hunt and it’s nice to be headed for the weekend.”
Ominously, MacIntyre made progress while reporting a struggling day. “It was a lot different for me,” he remarked after adding 70 to his opening 68.
“It was playing tougher because of the wind and I felt the greens were a bit firmer and faster. I just kept holing 6ft return putts and I scraped my way in there. I hit probably 14 greens today and struggled a bit to judge the swirling wind.” Nevertheless he dropped just one shot and amassed two birdies and an eagle.
A week ago Yorkshire’s Dan Brown had to pull out of the French amateur, while in contention, because of a foot injury. But the enforced rest has so far done the trick and he’s played 36 holes without problems. He was one-under yesterday and five-under in today’s bogey free round.
“I hit the ball a lot better off the tee today and I was really solid on the back nine where there’s a few flags you don’t want to miss on the wrong side,” said Brown. “It all feels good and I couldn’t ask for much more really, having had a few days off with injury.”
After today’s round the field was cut to the top 60 players and ties who managed scores of four-over and better, with a total of 63 competitors going forward to the final 36 holes this weekend.
Among those who avoided the drop was world number eight Connor Syme.
The Scot couldn’t find a birdie on the first day when he scored five-over 78. Today, he set himself a target of three-under, but was two over after three holes. He finally got a birdie on the 6th and promptly holed a 145-yard pitching wedge on seven for an eagle two. Three more birdies and a bogey followed and he exactly met his target, finishing the 36 holes on two-over.
“There are positive signs, I’m playing well and now I’ll be trying to get myself in contention over the next two rounds,” he said.
Less fortunate was Ben Chamberlain of Wales, who missed out by one shot, despite a hole in one on the 5th – the fifth of the championship on the hole. It was Chamberlain’s sixth ace, four of which have been in competition.
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