15 May 19
Neil Cheetham took a purposeful step in the first round of the Senior PGA Professional at Foxhills towards exorcising the demons that blighted his participation in the tournament a year ago.
Back then, Cheetham, who was making his debut in the event, missed the cut having negotiated the Longcross and then the Bernard Hunt course at the Surrey resort in 14-over-par.
Fast forward 12 months and he showed no ill-effects in tackling what was effectively a rematch with the par-72 Bernard Hunt course.
Not even a bogey at the par-three fourth appeared to faze the pro who represents the Wanderers Golf Club in South Africa.
Instead, he responded with three successive birdies before recording another trio en route to posting a five-under-par round of 67.
All of which has left him at the head of the 200-plus field chasing the £6,000 winner’s cheque or slice of the £41,000 prize fund.
Having erased the memories of one car crash of a round which resulted in a seven-over-par return, Cheetham now faces another battle with the Longcross, the stage for Great Britain and Ireland’s memorable PGA Cup victory over the USA in 2017.
It is said to be more difficult than its sibling, not that was apparent from Darren Prosser’s performance.
Prosser (above), a former European Tour player who runs the Kingswinford Golf Centre in the West Midlands, trails Cheetham by a shot after a four-under-par round of 68.
At one stage, however, he looked set to go into the second of the tournament’s three rounds in pole position.
A bogey-free and birdie-laden front nine saw him reach the turn in six-under-par but bogeys at 10 and 17 left him a shot off the pace and one clear of the pair tied in third place, John King, the defending champion, and Darren Charlton.
Another former champion, Robert Arnott, the winner in 2016, is a shot further back on two-under but others in the field who have won the tournament fared less well.
George Ryall, winner in 2009, is on five-over, and Kenny Hutton, champion at this venue five years ago is nine-over.
Full scores can be accessed via this link: