Slaley finds a superhero in Hooperman



Slaley Hall discovered its own Man of Steel – but it wasn’t Superman but Hooperman performing heroics at the Glenmuir PGA Professional Championship.

As this summer’s big blockbuster hits the silver screen tomorrow, Rayleigh’s Mark Hooper also has eyes on something silver after producing a best-of-the-week six-under 66 to move within two shots of Dan Greenwood, who remains top of the leaderboard at four-under-par after a nerve-jangling level par 72.

But the Essex ace’s appearance at the Peugeot-supported tournament had been in jeopardy all year after the 29-year-old was hit by a serious back injury, which affected him at last year’s PGA Play-Offs.

His clubs had remained in the travel case since returning from Turkey last December until getting them out last month, since which time he has retuned his swing to good effect in the PGA East Order of Merit events.

And that form finally came to bear on the third round of the £78,000 championship, where a tense final day is in prospect with six places on the GB&I PGA Cup team to take on America in September at the De Vere venue also to be determined.

Reflecting on his round, which comprised eight birdies – six of them on the back nine, and a dropped shot on each half of the course, Hooper said: “It was pretty solid from the start as I was two-under after the first three holes.

“I played nicely yesterday but today the putter was definitely a lot better. Round the back nine I hit within three feet four times and it just turned out to be one of my days.

“It’s quite exciting going into tomorrow. I won an Order of Merit event last week and it feels like it has put me in good stead for tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting out there and just seeing if I can get my name on the title I suppose.

“It’s only the second time I’ve competed in this event and I didn’t think I’d be playing again after having a serious back injury last year. To come out this year with no practice and see everything going rosy has surprised me.

“The back was really bad last year as I was in a lot of pain. I’ve got a curvature at the top of my spine and I really struggled at the end of last year, including the PGA Play-Offs.

“I’ve now invented a new swing that doesn’t hurt quite so much and it seems to be working.”

Still leading the way is Forest Pines’ Greenwood, who admitted to battling the nerves over the first few holes.


Paired with West Linton’s defending champion Gareth Wright, who prior to teeing off was informed he had been called into the PGA Cup team in place of Ireland’s David Higgins, the occasion initially got the better of Greenwood with dropped shots at the second and third. His round comprised four bogeys in all but these were cancelled out in equal measure with four birdies.

But, as he stands just one round away from adding his name to the trophy, keeping it together will be his biggest challenge.

“It’s good to still be at the top but I was very nervous setting off as I was shaking the first few holes and hit some poor shots,” he said.

“I made a birdie at four and that settled me down because I get nervous anyway, but being where I am in the tournament heightened it.

“Today will have helped me ahead of tomorrow as it’ll be the same pressure. It’s just getting through those first few holes.

“It’s also nice to see no-one charging. The conditions were tougher today with stronger winds, so Mark’s round of 66 was fantastic.

“As for tomorrow, whatever happens, happens.”

Playing partner Wright carded a 75 to ease to two-over and into a share of fifth spot with Kings Hill’s Benn Barham (74) and Ampfield Par 3’s Jonathan Barnes (70).

Nudged up behind the top two on one-over-par are 2011 champion Craig Goodfellow (Penrith Golf Centre), who shot a one-under 71, and David Callaway, who had a 73.

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