CHRIS Paisley takes a three-shot lead into the final round of the flagship £30,000 Rock Tournament at Matfen Hall today.
The 21-year-old Northumberland County Champion from Stocksfield came close to upstaging the cream of the PGA North Region and a couple of European Tour pros on the first day – and when he posted a four-under-par 68 yesterday, he did.
Added to his opening 70, that 68 took him three clear of Swinton’s David Smith and if the plus three handicapper can front run to victory today all he will have to show for it is the Northern Rock Trophy – and the prestige of being the first amateur to win the event.
The £5,000 first prize will go to the professional who finishes runner-up and that could come from a group of local pros including Kendal’s Peter Scott, five behind Paisley after a 73 yesterday.
Carlisle’s PGA Cup international Craig Goodfellow, Morpeth’s David Clark, Middlesbrough’s Jonathan Lupton (pictured), Slaley’s Luke Miller – a winner on the Hooters Tour in the USA – and European Tour player Gary Lockerbie from Penrith are also in with a shout, as they are all on 144, six shots back.
Goodfellow, who plays for Great Britain and Ireland in the PGA Cup against the USA in Georgia next month, fired a second successive level-par 72 and is playing well enough to come through.
The 32-year-old won the NE and NW PGA Championship at Ponteland recently and is aiming for a matchplay double at the Wynyard at the end of September, and he carded three birdies to offset a double bogey at the 15th and a dropped shot at the 11th.
Lockerbie is also on 144 after a 73, but former Tour player Paul Eales posted an 81 to be well out of it. Lockerbie admitted he struggled to get going but he’s still in there while Lupton and Miller’s second successive 72s and Clark’s 71 also put them on 144.
Overnight, Paisley was a shot off the first round pace-setter Matthew Ellis, who slumped to a 77 yesterday, and surged ahead with an eagle at the first hole and a birdie at the next. “It doesn’t get much better than starting off like that,” he said. He added two more birdies on the tougher inward half before giving a stroke back at the 17th which he went long to avoid the river and three-putted with the flag tucked in a difficult position.
Paisley, one of several players to roll off the Stocksfield junior conveyor belt including his brother Andrew, said his form owed much to his coaches at Tennessee University.
“I’ve been there for two years and I’ve learned a lot about course management,” he added. “I’ve always struck the ball well but I have improved my short game which is down to the excellent facilities they have in the United States.
“If I hadn’t gone over there I would not have been playing to such a high standard.” Paisley could try for his European Tour card when he completes his studies in two years but may play another season as an amateur and hasn’t ruled out playing in America and trying for the tour school there.
PGA NORTH REGION THE ROCK (Matfen Hall):
138 *C Paisley (Stocksfield) 70 68.
141 D Smith (Swinton Park) 70 71.
143 P Scott (Kendal) 70 73; P Carrigill (Carrigill Golf) 72 71; D Shacklady (Mossock Hall) 70 73.
144 J Lupton (Middlesbrough) 72 72; C Goodfellow (Carlisle DR) 72 72; J Wells (Cherry Burton) 75 69; B Taylor (Hoghwood) 72 72; G Lockerbie (Penrith) 71 73; D Clark (Morpeth) 73 71; L Miller (Slaley Hall) 72 72; P Bradshaw (Spaldington GC) 71 73; 144 G Wills (Fulford) 71 73.
145 D Brunton (Ringway) 72 73; P Allan (Ashton-in-Makerfield) 72 73; N Ludwell (Selby) 73 72; S Parry (Astley) 71 74.
146 M J Ellis (Golf Psychology Services) 69 77; M Tottey (North Wales) 72 74; R Wragg (Hallowes) 75 71.
Other local scores: 147 P Jenkinson (Penrith DR) 73 74; M Nesbit (Westerhope) 70 77; 148 M Archer (Newcastle United) 73 75; 149 M Ure (Billingham) 72 77; G Bell (Eaglescliffe) 74 75, S Harrison (Stocksfield) 72 77, M Ridley (South Moor) 77 72; 150 J Graham (Silloth) 71 79, G Cowan (Westerhope) 75 75; 151 D Crowle (Billingham) 76 75; S Rafferty (Eden) 76 75; P Eales (Northern Rock) 70 81; 152 A Paisley (Matfen Hall) 74 78, *R Lee (Tyneside) 77 75, P Fiddes (Matfen Hall) 74 78; J Wilkinson (Brampton) 74 78; 154 G Donnison (Stocksfield) 76 78; 155 *P Waugh (Hexham) 82 73; 158 S Oliver (Slaley Hall) 81 77; 159 G Tarplee (Parklands) 80 79; 161 J R Harrison (Matfen Hall) 75 86; M Forster (Tynedale) 79 82; M Jackson (Morpeth) 77 84; 166 M Pilgrim (Seaton Carew) 81 85.
DURHAM will be without their new matchplay champion Ricky Lee for their Northern Counties League derby against Northumberland at Hexham on Saturday and he is on his way back to college in the USA
NORTHUMBERLAND : C Paisley (Stocksfield), S Lee, R Crowe (both Newcastle United), B Taylor, P Waugh, S Heads (all Hexham), P Ridden (City of Newcastle), C Wilkinson (Blyth), C Penny, M Penny (both Morpeth), J Curry (Prudhoe), A J Minnikin (Gosforth).
DURHAM: D Patterson (Seaham), G Marchbank (Durham City), M Curry, R Aisbitt (both (Brancepeth), S Dance (Ramside Hall), J Birkbeck (Bishop Auckland), C Hewitt (Beamish Park), L McCavanagh (Woodham), B Ross (Heworth), A Bates (Blackwell Grange), A Bell (Durham City), N Harker-Bell (South Moor).
ENGLAND girls champion Ellie Givens (Blackwell Grange) is in the England team for the girls home internationals at Southerndown starting today.