Quartet lead the way at Slaley



The trials and tribulations of a myriad of issues including a new job, fatherhood and moving home were put to one side for Chris Gill at the Glenmuir PGA Professional Championship.

Gill, who last month took on the head professional’s job at Newquay in Cornwall, opened his campaign at De Vere Slaley Hall with a one-under-par 71 – one of four players on that mark at the end of the opening day.

Joining Gill as joint-leader at the Peugeot-supported tournament are Sheffield-based Michael Ramsden (Renishsaw Park), Dan Greenwood (Forest Pines) and last man in Craig Sutherland (Cherry Lodge).

Gill, who tied fourth in 2011 to book his berth in that year’s Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team, expressed his surprise given the lack of time to prepare for the £78,000 championship.

“I’m chuffed with that because I have absolutely no form coming into the event,” said the former PGA West No 1, decked in his 2011 PGA Cup top.

“I have no practice and no playing under my belt as I am trying start a new business, trying relocate my family including a teething six-month old girl, and sort out a mortgage.

“I took the job on May 1 and I am staying with a friend and commuting back to Exeter. I’m trying to get back as often as I can, whilst trying to get the business up so to be brutally honest playing has taken a back seat.

“Given all of that I didn’t expect anything to be honest, which is probably why I played alright.

“It would be nice to keep playing well over the next three rounds but I can’t expect too.”

Scoring was proving difficult on the firm but fair Hunting Course, which was primed to perfection.

“There’s not one ‘give me’ hole out there,” said Gill, who chalked up five birdies but was undone by two bogeys and double bogey.

“There’s normally been two or three holes at past venues like a short par five or par four but you’ve got to work at every hole out there. The greens are fantastic and the course is set up to be tough but not unplayable.

“I started on the 10th and to finish with seven, eight and nine is one of the toughest finishes we’ll play all year.”

Ramsden, who is making his first appearance in the championship having finally completed his PGA training, teed off at the first and plucked four birdies to offset his three bogeys.

But he admitted that the course had to be treated with the utmost respect to ensure a prolonged stay in the championship, with a cut of the top 50 and ties tomorrow.

“It was certainly tricky out there,” said the 37-year-old.

“First thing, the course was a bit fiery and hard and being the first round it was about not attacking too much, especially with where the flags were.

“This was about using your experience and getting the ball round safely. It’s the first time I have qualified having finally passed my PGA degree, but I’ve still played a fair bit and the last couple of years I’ve finished in the top 15 in the Order of Merit.”

Hoping for an improvement in fortunes is Kent-based Sutherland, who was in contention going into the final round at Carden Park last year but slipped to 21st for the third time in his attempts at the tournament.

Today, he was three-under with two to play, but he too fell foul of the eighth and ninth.

He said: “I played really nicely from the 10th hole, which was my first. I hit some really good shots over the next few holes but didn’t take advantage of them.

“I had a couple of soft bogeys on the back nine but then on the front nine I made four straight birdies and birdied six as well so made a charge with a couple of bad shots at the end.

“I’ve played six or seven of the last eight years and finished 21st three times so didn’t even get an exemption last year I was fifth going into the final round and finished 21st which was disappointing so I wanted to come back this year and make amends for it.”

The lead was challenged many times with ‘young guns’ George Cowan (Westerhope) and Luke Trowler (Telford G&CC) both troubling the scorers reaching four-under and six-under respectively only to stutter on their home stretch to end at four-over and one-over by the end.

The tournament has an added edge with six players, based on points accrued from finishing in the top 10 this week and last year’s tournament, securing their places in the GB&I PGA Cup squad to take on their United States counterparts over the same course in September.

Three players are already assured of their place via last December’s Titleist PGA Play-Offs.

Potentially joining them could be Greenwood, who finished fifth last year. He is the highest placed player of last year’s top 10 after cautiously plotting his way round.

Staring at the 10th, he opened with two birdies but returned these at the 17th and 18th. He got back under par with birdies at two and seven before dropping a shot at this final hole, the ninth.

“This tournament means a hell of lot to me,” said Greenwood. “This is the best tournament we’ve got and so you just try your hardest.

“It is a big year but I am not thinking PGA Cup. If I got in would be a bonus but it is not in my thinking.”

Last year’s champion Gareth Wright (West Linton), who is a strong contender to make the GB&I team on the back of his victory, opened his defence with a two-over-par 74.

Seven players are a shot further back on level par, including 2011 champion Craig Goodfellow (Penrith Golf & Driving Centre).

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