Friday, 26 September 2003
Trinidad and Tobago's Alan Mew carded a fabulous five under par 67 in windy conditions to open a two shot lead after the first round of the inaugural Merseyside English Seniors Open at Hillside Golf Club in Southport.

The 50 year-old Mew, who was born in the Caribbean but lives in Southhampton, carded six birdies and dropped just one shot to go into the second round two shots ahead of America's David Oakley and New Zealand's Simon Owen.

Carl Mason and Bill Longmuir, the current top two on the Seniors Tour Order of Merit, both recorded one under par rounds of 71, to finish the day in a share of fourth place alongside Australia's David Good, South Africa's John Fourie and Englishmen, Jim Rhodes and Steve Wild.

Scotland's John Chillas, England's Denis Durnian, Northern Ireland's Paul Leonard and Ireland's Denis O'Sullivan were all one shot further back on level par 72.

Mew came into the tournament languishing in 50th place on the Order of Merit but belied that lowly position with a fine round that included six birdies and one dropped shot on the 425 yard par four ninth.

The 50 year old rookie made his first birdie when he chipped to two feet on the 525 yard par five second. He added another when he got up and down from just off the edge of the green on the 504 yard par five fifth and then fired three more on the 14th, 15th and 17th coming home.

"The strange thing is that I didn't play all that well out there today," admitted Mew, who, prior to turning professional last November was a regular in the Hampshire County team.

"If I was to be honest, I would have to say that my putter saved me on more than one occasion out. But, at this stage in the season, who cares. It is the score that's important, not how I compile it. I need to make as much as I can just to make sure I keep my Card."

Mew goes into the second round two shots ahead of Oakley and Owen, who both carded 69s, albeit in entirely different weather conditions. Oakley, a 58 year old former furniture sales manager from Orlando, Florida, went out early and had to battle against strong wind and driving rain. In contrast, Owen, runner up to Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 Open Championship at St Andrews, went out later, when the wind had relented and the rain had died away altogether.

"I guess I got lucky with the weather," said Owen. "I certainly wouldn't have wanted to have gone out first thing in the morning.

"Under the circumstances, David must have played a great round of golf. In those conditions, anything around par would have been a good score, so what David did really is rather special.”

Mason and Longmuir, separated by just £34,000 at the top of the Order of Merit, also compiled their 71s in entirely different fashion. Out earlier, just after the rain had relented, Longmuir seemed to be cruising towards a 67 or a 68 before his fourth shot hit the flag stick on the 17th, spun off the green, from where he took three more to get down.

"I guess you can say I wasn't best pleased," said the Scot. "I have to admit that after a bad drive I would have settled for a six, but to score a seven was a little unfortunate, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Mason, had to recover from a dreadful start in order to regain his position as favourite to win the John Jacobs Trophy, awarded annually to the leading player on the Order of Merit. The Englishman won last week's Daily Telegraph/ Turismo Andaluz European European Masters Championship in Spain but he could have been forgiven for thinking that his luck had totally deserted him when he started his round with a bogey and the first, a double bogey at the second and another bogey at the fourth.

"It wasn't exactly the start I was looking for," admitted Mason. "I knew from that point on it would be a bit of a slog but I am delighted that I was able to turn things round."

Mason's first birdie of the day came on the 505 yard par five fifth. That got him out in three over par 39 but he came home in 32 with birdies at the 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th and just one solitary dropped shot on the 17th.

"At least I am back in the thick of things again," said Mason. "That's not something I was thinking about after my first four holes."

Neil Coles, the oldest man in the field, had little to cheer about on what was his 69th birthday, The Englishman has beaten his age twice already this season but yesterday, out in the worst of the weather, he could only manage a five over par 77. He goes into the second round in a share of 49th place.

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