Thursday, 31 May 2001
England's Maurice Bembridge, who finished second in all of the last three strokeplay events on the 2000 European Seniors Tour, gave himself a great chance to go one better when he opened with a flawless seven under par 65 to move into the lead after the first round of the De Vere PGA Seniors Championship over the new Jack Nicklaus course at Carden Park.

Bembridge, 56, who has won twice on the Seniors circuit but not since the 1998 Swedish Seniors Open, produced seven birdies and no bogeys in a sparkling round and now goes into the second round two shots ahead of Somerset club pro, Mike Steadman, and three shots in front of New Zealand's Simon Owen, Scotland's Jim Farmer and Englishmen, Nick Job and Steve Wild.

America's J.R. Delich hold seventh place on his own after an opening three under par 69 with Scotland's Gordon MacDonald, America's David Oakley, Australia's Ross Metherell, Northern Ireland's Paul Leonard and Welshman, Craig Defoy all sharing eighth place on 70.

"I played very nicely, said Bembridge, a former Ryder Cup golfer who once held the course record at Augusta National after touring the Masters course in 64 in 1974. "I'm determined to do something this season. I've not won for three seasons and I need to know I still can."

Steadman, the club pro at Vivary golf course in Taunton, and the winner of the 1991 British Club Professional Championship, produced a total of six birdies and one bogey while compiling his best ever round on the European Seniors Tour.

"I don't get many starts out here so it's important that I make the most of them when I do," he said.

"I have to admit I'd love to finish in the top-10 this week. That's my goal because it would get me straight into next week's £500,000 Welsh Open and give me a great chance to earn a bit of cash."

England's Steve Wild, an industrial painter by trade, whose company is currently working on a contract at the Treasury,is also looking for the big cash because, like Steadman, he is struggling for starts this season after finishing in a lowly 58th place on last year's Seniors Tour Order of Merit.

"I don't know how many starts I will get but I do know that will not be as many as I would like," said
Wild, who hails from Salt, Staffordshire and for many years was a member of his local amateur County side prior to turning professional in 1996.

"I need to play well and that's exactly what I did out there today. I never missed a fairway. hit 17 greens in regulation and holed a lot of putts, too."

"I just wish I could learn to do it more often," he added

At the other end of the spectrum, the New Zealander, Owen, is like Bembridge in as much as he is hoping to build on the second place finish he secured behind Japan's Seiji Ebihara at the recent AIB Irish Seniors Open.

Owen, who, famousl, also finished second behind Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 Open at St Andrews, is making only only his third Seniors Tour start this week and he believes it was his relative inexperience that cost him the title in the Irish event at Powerscourt.

"To be honest, I didn't drive the ball all that well for most of the week in Ireland and, sure enough, when it came to the crunch, it was that part of my game that let me down," he said.

"Now, though, I'm feeling a lot more confident. I've started to hit the ball a lot better and I'm getting much more used to handling the pressure again. It takes a while, you know, especially when you haven't played much competitive golf for a while."

Manuel Ballesteros, Seve's elder brother, was disqualified after returning a three over par 75. He was deemed to have been using an illegal grip on his broomhandle putter.

Northern Ireland's Eddie Polland retired after three holes suffering from a back problem.

"I felt something go when I hit my shot off the first tee," he said. "It was very painful. There certainly wasn't any way I could go on."

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