MISSING the cut in your previous two events is not the best preparation for the biggest English championship of the season.

But it didn't cause Ciaran Doherty any problems as he shared top spot with Cornwall's Tom Fox and Norway's Sebastian Mork Andersen after the first round of the Brabazon Trophy.

The trio returned five-under-par 68s around the testing Seaton Carew course which leaves them a shot clear of the field on a day of somewhat benign conditions on the Durham coast when 44 players bettered the par of 73.

Loading article content

Doherty and Fox had seven birdies on their cards to upstage a field of internationals while for Lancastrian Doherty it helped erase the memory of missed cuts at the St Andrews Links and Berkshire Trophies.

While many players used their drivers sparingly, opting for a long iron off many tees, Doherty whipped his driver from the bag on most holes; "it makes the course a lot shorter," he quipped. "Of all the clubs in my bag it's the one I hit the straightest," added the 24 year old from Bury.

"I had a good start with birdies at the first two holes and I also birdied the fourth to be out in 31." He dropped a shot at the tenth, one of just two bogeys, further birdies came at the 11th, 12th and 18th while his tally could have been even greater but for three-putts at the 13th and 14th for pars.

Fox, 23, the deputy golf manager at China Fleet in Saltash, was making his Brabazon debut and visiting Seaton Carew for the first time. Despite being one over par through the first three holes, the South West stroke play champion said: "I don't think I missed a fairway. My approach play was good, I knocked it close and had a lot of tap-ins. Long may it continue."

Norway's Mork Andersen was one of the last players out and had six birdies in his 68.

Four players returned 69 including England squad members Tomasz Anderson, Seb Crookall-Nixon and Ben Stow, all at college in the United States. Anderson, 22, admitted he made a slow start being one over for the first eight holes. But he covered the remaining ten holes in five under including a 30-yard chip-in for eagle at the 521-yard 11th.

Crookall-Nixon, 20, twice the English under-16 champion before enhancing his career at college in San Francisco, was another to find seven birdies in his 69, making his score by covering the inward nine in three under.

Also on 69 is Suffolk's Jack Cardy, who found five birdies and suffered just one dropped shot, at the 17th. Among those on 70, three under par, is Ashley Chesters, the European Amateur champion and England international and Scottish cap Adam Dunton.

* There is free entry at Seaton Carew for spectators throughout the week.