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England and Wales (North) Region

Ryan takes route 66 at Sandburn

29 Aug 13

2909North Ryan ONeill

Early bird Ryan O'Neil set the pace in the Yorkshire PGA Masters at Sandburn Hall with a six-under-par 66 on a course he'd never even seen before.

He was denied the chance to play a practice round because he was minding the shop at Penwortham, where he is an assistant, while his boss was on holiday.

For the same reason he also had to pull out of this week's PGA Europro event in Oxfordshire.

And he had to leave his Wigan home at the crack of dawn to ensure he took his place in the opening two ball at the Vale of York club.

"I only had time to walk a couple of holes," he said, so I relied on instinct which was probably a blessing in disguise because I did not know where the hazards were."

O'Neill, 24, who won the PGA North Championship at Herons' Reach in Blackpool two years ago, originally sent his heart of a soccer career.

He played for Wigan Athletic youth team, and even had a season playing rugby league with Wigan Warriors before swopping his studs for spikes at the age of 17.

There was not a blemish on his card as he marked down an eagle at the ninth with two birdies on either side of it.

"I didn't strike the ball as well as I can but I got it round, kept out of trouble and took my chances well," he added as he led by a shot from Royal Liverpool's Ian Keenan who finished in a tie for second in last week's De Vere Leeds Cup at Oulton Hall.

Order of Merit leader David Shacklady, from Mossock Hall, was a stroke back alongside Aran Wainwright, the Mid Yorks professional. 

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