Wootton and Ablett set the pace at Carden Park

Wootton and Ablett set the pace at Carden Park


In-form Adam Wootton and James Ablett set the pace in a keenly contested first round of the Golfbreaks PGA Fourball Championship at Carden Park.

They posted an 11 under par total of 61 in the better-ball format event to lead the 72-strong field but it is the slenderest of advantages as four shots span the leading 16 pairs.

The duo got off to a blistering start with the left-handed Ablett (above) from Lee on the Solent Golf Club leading the way.

They were seven-under at the turn, a total that included a bogey and an eagle from Ablett at the par-five ninth.

“Jabbs was seven-under for the front nine – I was just a passenger,” said Wootton, who represents Core Golf Ltd and went into the event boosted by victory in the PGA Kent Open Championship.

“It was a great start but I played nicely on the back nine.”

Not least on the par-three 16th where Wootton (above) came within inches of an eagle of his own with a hole in one.

“It was a good eight iron and a good yardage for me,” he reflected. “The ball touched the hole and spun back a foot so it was a tap-in birdie.”

Wootton followed up with another birdie at the risk and reward par-four 17th and added: “I’ve found a bit of form – it’s a good time of the year to be in form. Hopefully I’ll keep it going for the next few days.”

Given the quality of their pursuers, that’s a must if he and his partner are to claim the £5,500 first prize.

It’s a chasing pack that includes four pairs a shot behind on 10-under: Ireland’s Brian Doheny and Steven Quinlan; Essex duo Jason Levermore and Andrew Pestell; reigning Asbri Welsh PGA Champion Tim Dykes and his partner Andy Palmer; and Welsh pair Matt Moseley and Richard James.

Three shots further back in a six-strong group sharing 11th place are the defending champions Jack Winer and James Watts who are bidding for an unprecedented hat-trick of victories.

The most uplifting story of the day, however, concerns a member of the pair who lie tied 70th on three-over, Matty Dunbabin (above).

He is playing in the tournament just weeks after undergoing a liver transplant, surgery that as well as life-saving is life-affirming.

“It’s been a tough year,” he said with a degree of under-statement. “The goal was to make it here. Me and Gareth (Jones) have done that and achieved what we wanted to. It wasn’t the best of days but it’s just good to be here.”

Dunbabin, like his partner is attached to Sandiway Golf Club and was afforded the use of a buggy as he is not fully fit following his illness.

“I had the use of a buggy, which helped,” he added. “And the swing is weaker and a lot less speed.”

To compound his difficulties, Dunbabin had to play the first two holes on his own because his partner’s car broke down two miles from the course.

“It wasn’t the best of starts but Gareth made it on the third and made a good par,” he said. “Unfortunately, we bogeyed the last to finish on three-over but the score doesn’t matter to us.

“I’m just grateful to be here. Playing golf was the last of my hopes for this year so it was good to be out on the course.”

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