Andrew Woodhead arrived for the R&A Senior Amateur Championship at Ganton Golf Club just hoping to finish in the top 20 to get an exemption into next year’s championship. He might do a lot better than that: he’s leading the way after 54 holes.
The member of Hessle Golf Club in Cottingham, East Yorkshire returned a one-over-par 72 to go with earlier scores of 75 and 72. He stands on six-over-par 219, one shot ahead of American Gene Elliott and fellow Englishman Paul Wharton.
“I scrambled really well today, Woodhead said. “It’s been the same all week. I haven’t hit the ball that great, but I’ve kept in play and putted well.”
The retired police inspector was one-under after 14 holes but dropped shots at the 15th and 17th holes. “Those last four holes are tough. I was under a bit pressure towards the end. It’s a case of make your score and hang on to it over the last four holes. That’s what I’ve done over the last two days, which is why I’m in the position I’m in.”
Woodhead is making his second appearance in the championship after finishing T46 two years ago, the last time the championship was held.
“I made the cut two years ago at North Berwick and was two-over for the three rounds. My goal this week was to try and get a top 20 and an exemption for next year, so this nice.”
Rewards on offer
If Woodhead holds on to win he’ll be rewarded with a spot in the Senior Open presented by Rolex at Sunningdale Golf Club in two weeks’ time and a spot in the US Senior Amateur, the rewards that come with winning the Senior Amateur.
He’ll join Elliot at Sunningdale if he does. The American has already booked his place in the Senior Open by finishing low amateur in the 2019 championship.
Iowa native Elliott has some unfinished business with the Senior Amateur. He’s been second, third and joint second in his last three appearances. He lost in a playoff to countryman Craig Davis at North Berwick two years ago.
Elliott is in contention thanks to a one-under-par 70 following rounds of 74 and 76. He was three under par for his round after 11 holes, but dropped shots at 15, 16 and 17, before finishing with a birdie.
“It takes a long time to learn this golf course,” Elliot said. “I’ve hit a lot of different clubs off tees the last three days and I’m just trying to stay out of the bunkers. I don’t care if I have 210 yards into the green, I’m not going in those fairway bunkers.
“It’s a hard golf course, a nervy golf course. I knew the golf course was going to be tough.
“I love this championship. I’ve finished second, third and second my last three years and that’s one of the reasons I came. After it was cancelled last year, I didn’t want to miss two years in a row.
He and his wife Dalena are in the UK for a three-week sojourn for this championship and the Senior Open. They had to spend five days in isolation upon arrival in the UK because of Covid-19 protocols.
“We only left the room to do testing. That’s one of the reasons I’ve taken a while to get going. I’ve been a hotel room for five days and you can only swing a golf club inside a hotel room and practise putting for so long. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked to play in a golf tournament by far, but it’s worth it to play here on this great golf course.”
Wharton returned a three-over par 74 to continue the consistency he’s shown all week. “I didn’t play particularly well but I scrapped it out,” said Wharton, who shared the 18 and 36-hole leads.
Ireland’s David Mulholland posted a best of the week 68, three-under-par - the only score under 70 so far. He moved 28 places up the leaderboard from his 36-hole position. He sits in solo fourth place on eight-over-par.