16 June 2010, Gullane, Scotland: The three stars of Great Britain and Ireland’s 2009 Walker Cup team contesting the Amateur Championship this week, Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Paisley and Stiggy Hodgson have safely made it through the first round. They join 29 other players representing 15nations, who are one step closer to the Open Championship exemption and the Masters Tournament invitation on offer to the winner.
Fleetwood, 19, finished stroke play qualifying two shots clear of the field after he followed an opening-day 70 at Muirfield, with a six-under-par 65 at North Berwick. Despite going two holes down after five today, the World Amateur Golf Ranking number nine rallied to turn the match around and win 2&1.
“The first few holes were a bit of a struggle,” said the 2008 Amateur Championship runner-up. “Towards the end though, when I really needed it, I played well.
“I’m still feeling confident. As long as I play well, I think I’ve got a good chance of going all the way. You never know who you’re going up against, but I fancy my chances here.”
Displaying similar levels of confidence is Stiggy Hodgson, who comfortably defeated Royal Liverpool’s Tom Boys 4&3.
“You can’t get over-confident, but I feel confident enough. I’m going to be tough to beat,” said Sunningdale’s Hodgson, who took two points from four against the USA last September at Merion Golf Club.
“I’m striking it great and putting well, which is nice. I can’t get too excited yet, though. It’s only the first round, and I didn’t play fantastic today, but it’s job done.”
Completing the trio of Walker Cup players is Stocksfield’s Chris Paisley. The 24-year-old progressed to the second round after a 3&2 victory over Italy’s Mattia Miloro.
“The Walker Cup gave me lots of confidence,” explained Paisley, who graduated from the University of Tennessee last year. “I had two halves in the singles there, and both were really good games. It gave me confidence that I can play on a big stage like that.
“It was good today, just a steady performance. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough.”
International players progressing included Jin Jeong of Korea and Australia’s Kieran Pratt, both of whom won their matches by two holes. And, like Fleetwood, Hodgson and Paisley, they are brimming with confidence going into the rest of the week.
“I’m hitting it well and I’ve been putting pretty well this week, so I’m quite confident of hopefully winning this one,” said Jeong, the world number 10.
Pratt, who won the 2010 Lake Macquarie Amateur by 11 strokes, said: “Hopefully I can lift it in the next few matches and put more pressure on my opponent. But I got enough out of today to move on and be confident over the next few days.”
Others to make it into day four include Welshman Rhys Enoch, Scotland’s James Byrne, Bolivia’s Sebastian MacLean, Yuki Usami of Japan and Sweden’s Henrik Norlander.
Tomorrow will see 32 become eight, as the remaining competitors play two rounds of match play. The draw is available to view on RandA.org and live match scores will be updated online throughout the day.
The 36-hole final will be played on Saturday. The winner will receive exemption into the 150th Anniversary Open Championship and a Masters Tournament invitation.