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Roper ready for weekend after first hole horror
ROGER ROPER wants to finish the English Senior Open with a strong 36-hole finish after holding his nerve following a disastrous opening hole at Rockliffe Hall yesterday.
The Hurworth-based golfer suffered a two-stroke penalty before he had even teed off in his opening round after losing his caddie. A further dropped shot meant he was three over before he had even reached the second.
After spending weeks preparing for his Senior Tour appearance on the Rockliffe track he plays out of, Roper's problems surfaced because of a change of format.
For the English Senior Open the first hole is what would normally be the club's tenth hole, so his caddy ended up on the tee box he was used to rather the one he was supposed to be on.
“I was with him on the putting green about ten minutes before tee-time,” said Roper. “I then walked down to my tee, I saw my caddy go half way down and then disappear.
“I think the reason for the confusion must be that we are used to playing the course the other way around. That's got to be the reason. He's a lifelong friend, a fine gentleman. He's not had a good day.
“He has been up with me several times preparing distances here. I don't know why I didn't just take the driver to the tee. It was a frightening thing to happen. To be the best prepared player here and then for that to happen was horrendous.”
Roper's failure to strike his ball within 90 seconds of Bill Longmuir's drive cost him the penalty, although had the delay been for five minutes then the former Catterick golfer would have been disqualified.
Instead he steadied himself. After a bogey at five, he made birdie at seven and 12 before finishing with a further bogey at 17. Carding a three over after that start, though, was commendable.
He said: “I hit a fine drive. Hopefully anyone stood on the tee will have noted that! I didn't have long to think about the tee shot did I? After that I went on to hit 75, I didn't hole too many putts to speak of.
“But I played steadily to a degree. I have 36 holes to play and I can improve on the first 18. Hopefully I will do that. It's a 54-hole tournament and I'm going to take it on the chin.”
While Roper battled with his mind after his poor start, Kent's Peter Mitchell had his North-East connections to thank for helping him claim the overnight lead with a brilliant six-under 66.
The 55-year-old finished the day one shot clear of Gordon J Brand, Jose Manuel Carriles and Santiago Luna after a near flawless opening round which included six unblemished birdies.
Mitchell said: “I have to give credit to my mate, Craig, who owns Indoor Golf in Newcastle. I went up there and he got me on his Sight Scope. He put new shafts for me and it's massively helped in my iron play. He turned it round for me.
“And I also went round with Graeme Storm (the Rockliffe Tour pro) on Wednesday, who I used to teach years ago. I never got chance to play the back nine before this, so I caught him up on the back and saw how it was supposed to be played.
“The owners have done a fantastic job. To have the rain we have had here, to have the ball not picking up any mud is incredible. The ball was still rolling, the greens could be made a bit faster but then the pins would be unplayable in places.”
Eaglescliffe's Graeme Bell is nicely placed going in to the second round, sitting on two under after a card boasting 16 pars and two birdies.
Bell said: “I'm just happy with what I've done today. If you'd have asked me if I'd take a 70 in my first round playing with great golfers of course I would. I played solidly and we will see if it continues.”
Matfen Hall's John Harrison, a lifelong Middlesbrough fan and former Barnard Castle pro, was frustrated to card a 75.
After an encouraging opening day turn out from the public, the hope is that warmer temperatures and two more rounds of golf will attract even more North-East golf fans to Rockliffe over the next 48 hours.
Chairman of Rockliffe Warwick Brindle said: "It has been a fantastic first day, and it has been good to see so many local people turn out to support the event.
"There are tickets still available on the gate for Saturday and Sunday and with the forecast for the weekend looking good, we anticipate welcoming many more visitors. Good luck to all the players, I think we have an interesting two days ahead of us.”
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