Tony McLure holds early lead at Seniors Amateur Championship

It was a good day all round for England’s Tony McLure. Out early and safely back in the clubhouse before a storm hit, he posted the only sub par round to lead after the first day of the Seniors Amateur Championship at Ganton.

The Longhirst Hall golfer had three birdies and two bogeys in a one-under-par 70 and led by one from Paul Plant (Dyke) and by two from George Wilson (Calcot Park) and American Brady Exber. 

But 15 groups failed to finish due to thunder and lightning in the afternoon. Play was suspended for two hours 45 minutes and among those still to complete his first round is the defending champion, George Zahringer. The American was two-over-par after nine holes.  

McLure, a plus one handicapper, has a great amateur golfing pedigree. A one-time Head Greenkeeper, he won the prestigious Lytham Trophy in 1993, the English Mid-Amateur in 1994 and is also a former French Mid-Amateur Champion.

A six-time County Durham Champion, McLure won the Wickham Club Championship twenty times before moving to Longhirst Hall in 2012. He has been Champion at his new Club for the past three years and, last season, won the English County Champion of Champions title.

“I played in this event for the first time last year at Royal Aberdeen but I had trouble with the bunkers and missed the cut,” said McLure, who now supplies golf clubs with all sorts, including signage, yardage books and scorecards. 

“I have been at Ganton once or twice before and I think it is the best course I have ever played,” he continued. “It’s a great test and you really need to have your wits about you.”

His gains came at the par four eighth – a seven iron approach to eight feet – the par five 13th and a two at the 235-yard 17th, where he hit a glorious three wood tee shot to inside six feet. 

He dropped a shot at the fourth and his only other error was at the long ninth where her drove left and then hit into the bushes and was forced to take a penalty drop. But he escaped with nothing worse than a six. 

A golfer since he was a boy, McLure has tried to gain a card for the Seniors Tour. “I’ve been twice at the qualifying school,” he continued. “I got close the first time just missing out by a couple of shots.”

Plant, playing in the Championship for the first time, had four birdies and four bogeys. “I played pretty solid and chipped and putted very well,” said the 56-year-old Club Champion, who would have tied for the lead but missed the green and dropped a shot at the last. 

Wilson, a former British and English Police Champion, had played 15 holes before the interruption and went on to make three pars for his 72. The highlights were birdies at the seventh, from six feet, and another from three feet at the 165-yard tenth following a near perfect seven iron tee shot. 

“My dropped shots were just errors off the tee,” said the 55-year-old after a round that started just after 10am and eventually finished minutes before 6pm. “When play was stopped I had just hit a horrible shot into the Valley of Sin at the 15th. 

“But I was pleased to go back and get away with two putts. It was a long day and we had every kind of weather.” 

Exber, sixth in 2011 and fifth in 2012, tied for the lead after the first round at Royal Aberdeen last year – but then missed the cut. “If I can get past the second round then I should be ok,” joked the man from Las Vegas.  

The first round is due to finish in the morning. After the second round the top 60 make the cut for the final 18 holes on Friday. 

Seniors Amateur Championship scoring