16 May 18
Judging by the way Mark Ridley ended the first round of the Silversea Senior PGA Professional Championship it would be no surprise had he followed up by purchasing a lottery ticket.
When the yellow ball he launched from the 18th tee on the Bernard Hunt course at Foxhills veered towards a ditch and generous plantation of Rhododendrons, Ridley’s chances of going into the second round sharing the lead with John Gould looked to have gone with it.
Miraculously, it landed in a portion of Surrey that, no more than eight-foot square, separated the hazards and afforded a clear view of the green. The miracles did not end there, however.
Having landed his approach on the apron of the green and at least 40 feet from the hole, he then chipped in to turn what had looked a likely double bogey six into a birdie three.
In doing so, he signed for a five-under-par round of 68 to establish a one-shot advantage over the 200-plus field vying for a slice of the £41,190 prize fund put up by Silversea, the cruise line specialists sponsoring the tournament for a third year.
While Ridley rode his good fortune on the 18th, to suggest he had Lady Luck on his bag for the previous 17 holes would do him a disservice.
In addition to his party piece at the last, the pro from South Moor Golf Club posted four other birdies in a bogey-free round.
Similarly Gould (above) recorded five birdies, the sole blemish in his four-under-par return of 69 coming at the par-four 17th.
The pair were members of a six-strong band that, also comprising Robert Ellis, Mark Stokes and David Shacklady who went round in two-under, and Paul Streeter, broke par.
Five of the sextet tackled the Bernard Hunt course while Ellis proved the most successful of those charged with negotiating the Longcross, the stage for Great Britain and Ireland’s memorable PGA Cup victory over the USA last autumn.
The Bernard Hunt course, which features one more par five than its sibling, is said to be the easier of the two and, with strong gusts of wind and a chill in the air adding to the degree of difficulty, the scores reflected that.
Ridley and Gould will face the Longcross in round two and they may well be mindful of the fate that befell George Ryall who was four-under at the turn and on course to join them at the top of the leaderboard.
A nightmare back nine resulted in him finishing on three-over and facing a tough task in winning the tournament for a second time.
Robert Arnott, another previous champion in the field, fared even worse. The Scot, whose victory in 2016 was sandwiched by two triumphs for Fraser Mann, completed the Bernard Hunt course in six-over.
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