Strickland’s 66 leads the Brabazon

Charlie Strickland shot a bogey-free 66 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the Brabazon Trophy at Alwoodley Golf Club, Leeds.

The 20-year-old from Sussex was five-under par in tough conditions of wind and drizzle, holding tight to his score with good par saves on the final two holes

His closest challenger in the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play is Cornwall’s Harry Hall on 68, while four players are grouped on two-under 69 and another six on 70.

Strickland’s confidence is high after finishing third in the recent Irish Amateur and he started with a pair of birdies. “I just kicked on from there,” he said. “I missed a few chances going out, but it was really steady.”

He reached the turn in three-under and added another pair of birdies on 11 and 12, holing from 25ft and 12ft. “From there I knew it was really hard coming in, so I concentrated on getting it on the fairway and on the green.

“I felt there was a good score coming. I’ve been playing well, but not really carrying it through the round, so I’m happy with that,” said Strickland, from Ham Manor Golf Club.

Harry Hall (West Cornwall) returned from university in the USA only on Tuesday, but after four years of crossing the Atlantic he’s learned how to dodge the jet lag.

During his final year at college he won twice and he demonstrated his form at Alwoodley, collecting an eagle and three birdies alongside a couple of bogeys.

But most importantly, he produced a string of solid pars at the end of the round: “It was really brutal into the wind on the last five holes and it was a solid finish,” said Hall, who got up and down from a bunker behind the 18th to complete his 68.

The Yorkshire challenge is led by 16-year-old Ben Schmidt from Rotherham Golf Club. He posted two-under 69, with a strong finish of birdie, par, and shares third place.

“I kept the ball in play, didn’t make any major mistakes which cost me and I had a couple of good par saves,” he said. Among them was the 13th, where he had to come out sideways from a bunker, but then got up and down from 100 yards.

Schmidt, from the England boys’ squad, is playing in this event for the first time and is keen for a good result. He has plenty of inspiration from within his county: Yorkshire has provided two of the last three Brabazon champions, with Nick Poppleton winning last year and Jamie Bower in 2016.

The group on 69 includes England A squad player, Jake Bolton of Ogbourne Downs in Wiltshire. He missed the cut in the recent French Amateur – but turned it to his advantage. He went straight back to his coach to refresh his swing and was hot off the blocks today with four birdies in his first five holes.

“I hadn’t seen my coach for eight weeks so we tightened everything up,” said Bolton, who also switched back to his old putter after trying a new model over recent weeks. “It’s got my confidence going for the rest of the week,” he said, after signing for his 69.

Also on two-under are Scotland’s James Wilson and Jake Hapgood of Wales.

The best start in the championship belonged to Kent’s Cameron Lombard (Canterbury) who holed a 15ft putt for birdie on the first, then chipped in for eagle two on the second. But the finishing holes were less kind to him and he finally signed for one-over 72.

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