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Amateur Championship:
Dyson's early progress lifts Walker Cup hopes

SIMON DYSON showed why he is rated one of the leading young prospects in British golf with a superb four-under-par 67 on the first day of the Amateur Championship at Royal County Down yesterday.

The 21-year-old Yorkshireman, who plays off plus-two at Sand Moor, impressed early on with a birdie three at the 451-yard second and reached the turn in 34. The England international was back in 33, which would have been even better but for a dropped shot on the par-four 17th, where he three-putted.

Generally, though, Dyson's Ping was working like a charm, and he could hardly have timed it better with Walker Cup and England selectors seemingly behind every gorse bush. Dyson was first reserve in the GB and Ireland team who won the Eisenhower Trophy in Chile last autumn; he aims to be in the thick of the Walker Cup action at Nairn later this year.

Travis Perkins hopes to be at Nairn, too, on the American team. Perkins, 22, has just finished a degree course in sports marketing in Florida and plans to try for his US Tour card. Before that, though, he wants a Walker Cup place and his opening 67 on the Kilkeel course yesterday will have done him no harm - especially as the American team's captain, Danny Yates, is also playing here.

Perkins had five birdies in his outward 33, three in a row from the fifth. A bogey at the 12th slowed him, but he hit back with birdies at the 15th and 18th to be home in 34 and share the early lead with Dyson.

Aran Wainwright, a former English Amateur champion, enjoyed his round at Kilkeel, too. Especially the first hole, where he started with an eagle three and was four under par after six holes. A bogey at the 13th was soon forgotten when he birdied the 16th and was back in the clubhouse with a 69.

Mention must also be made of American James Sullivan's two eagles, a three at the first on the main course and another on the long 12th.

The bunker-strewn 18th proved something of a tough hurdle as the wind strengthened during a sunny day. Certainly, Trevor Immelman, Olivier David and Mark Hilton had a traumatic time there. Eventually, Immelman, a South African who reached the final a couple of years ago, 'won' the hole with a two-over seven for a round of 73.

David, a French international, took eight to finish in 75 while Hilton, the 1998 Berkshire Trophy winner, took nine yet still carded a creditable 73.

Gary Wolstenholme, a former champion, must have thought his round would never end. He started at 12.30pm, finishing six hours later. A double-bogey seven at the last hardly raised his spirits and a 70 in the circumstances was nothing short of brilliant.

Roger Beames, beaten finalist in the British Amateur Championship in 1996, carded a three-over-par 74. He blamed the slick greens on the testing links for his inability to shoot under par.

"I played in a professional tournament, the Northern Open, at Nairn Dunbar last week and I thought the greens were fast there, but they're nothing compared to here," he said.

"I missed birdie putts on the first and second, which you don't want, because you have to have confidence in your putting or else you've had it."

Details

AMATEUR CH'SHIP.- Early 1st rd leaders: (GB & Ireland unless stated) Royal County Down: 67-S Dyson (Sand Moor). 68-J Sullivan (US). 70-C Edwards (Bath); G Rankin (Drompellier); K Kearney (Galway); J Hugo (S Africa); G Wolstenholme (Kilworth Springs). Kilkell: 67-T Perkins (US). 69-A Baddley (Australia); C-H Quelin (France); A Wainwright (Garforth); M Siem (Germany); 70-N Dougherty (Shaw Hill); M King (Toft Hotel).

Bill Meredith - Electronic Telegraph