Yates leads a quality field at a challenging Walton Heath

American Danny Yates leads the Seniors Open Amateur Championship at Walton Heath after a five-under-par 67, two shots in front of Scotland’s Douglas Cameron (Moor Park), and three ahead of former Walker Cup Captain, Garth McGimpsey and two-time winner, Paul Simson of the USA.

2009 Champion, Robert Vallis, had a disappointing start to his title defence, returning a five-over par 77 over the Old Course, despite birdies on the 4th and 18th  holes and finishing with a confident approach shot from a seven-iron into three feet.Danny Yates at The Walker Cup

Yates, 60, who returns to tournament golf after a break of five years, started his challenge with a birdie on the par-four, 441-yard 4th hole, hitting a four iron in to five feet.  The former US Walker Cup team member went on to eagle the par-five eighth hole with an impressive pitch in over a greenside bunker.  Three more birdies on the back nine followed, helping the 1992 Mid Amateur champion clinch the lead and the lowest score of the day. 

“The golf course is great, I loved it.  I enjoy playing golf over here, its more challenging, you have to think about making different shots, it’s a lot more fun.  This is my best round of golf in a long time; I had a good caddie and tried to play smart, got some great breaks too,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to round two. There are lots of great players here - I just need to play one shot at a time. I have no expectations.”

England’s Douglas Cameron takes sole possession of second place after recording a three-under-par 69. The 55-year-old made birdies on the eighth, 10th, 14th and 16th, before finishing with a bogey-five on 18. 

A further shot behind on 70, two-under-par, is Ulsterman Garth McGimpsey, who is making his Championship debut.  The holder of over two hundred Irish International caps did not start well, three-putting the first two holes.  It was not long before he made his first birdie on the 4th, however, holing a massive 60-foot putt.  An impressive seven-iron shot in to ten feet on the par-four 6th produced another birdie opportunity, which he did not miss.  Reaching the turn in level-par 35, a birdie on 10, followed by a spectacular five-iron in to two feet for an eagle-three on the 16th, helped the former Amateur Champion move into second place.

A view of the Old Course at Walton Heath Golf ClubSharing that position is the 2006 and 2008 winner Paul Simson, who recovered from three bogeys on the front nine, to produce some excellent iron play, making birdies on 11, 13, 14 and an eagle-three on the par-five 16th with a tricky 12-foot putt. 

Simson said: “I felt a lot better after I started making some birdies out there.  I am in a good position now, the course is wonderful and in really fine shape, the greens are perfect.”

Positioned only four shots behind the leader on 71, one-under par, are 2009 English Amateur Champion Chris Reynolds and Crewe’s Roy Smethurst, the 2010 French Seniors Champion and 2003 Seniors Open Amateur winner.  Both are aiming to add this title to already remarkable amateur careers, and they both played some outstanding golf today to place themselves in contention.

Click here for the round one scoreboard and second round tee times.