BLACKWOOD’S Bradley Dredge led the home charge at the ISPS Handa Wales Open on a day where Welsh fortunes fluctuated as much as the weather.
After a week of glorious sunshine, the grey skies and familiar cold breeze was back at the Celtic Manor and a tough day of high scoring was the result.
At only one over par Dredge was the best placed Welsh hope, with only four professionals still standing tall in Newport.
He birdied the eighth and ninth – his final two holes – to post the competitive 73 that keeps him around the top 20 mark.
With over a dozen players at plus ten or worse, Dredge was happy enough to have finished just six strokes behind leader Lee Slattery.
“Celtic Manor provided a very different challenge on the first day of this year’s Wales Open. Unlike in previous years when the course has been dogged by wet weather it was much tougher test,” he explained.
“Playing the Wednesday pro-am I discovered just how firm the greens are and I was not going to be playing target golf here like I have in the past. “But to go with the firm greens in the first round we had a strong wind blowing down the Usk Valley and with some of pin positions it was very difficult to get the ball close and set up birdie chances. It also called for a lot of shot shaping and good control of ball flight.”
Dredge felt he could’ve finished even higher up the leaderboard: “There were a few errors in my game out there today so to have limited the damage to shooting a one over par 72 puts me well in contention. Though I felt I played enough decent shots to finish one under rather than one over.
“And I also managed to make five birdies including one into the wind at the 18th. So it was a good day made all the better by have so many friends and members of my family following outside the ropes.”
Fellow Gwent golfer, Newport’s Phillip Price, didn’t fare so well, ending up four over par.
“There weren’t many birdie chances, it’s as tough as I’ve ever known the course,” he said.
“It’s playing three or four strokes harder than it should so relative to that I did ok; it was like a par round. It’s as hard as it has ever been and the best chance of scoring was in the morning so hopefully I’ll have it better tomorrow and can make the cut, that’s the first aim from now.
“I need to play a little better. I’ve got a lot of family in tow and a lot of friends; I’ve found a lot this week!” Price positively triumphed in comparison to Stephen Dodd and Jamie Donaldson who both withdrew from the tournament, Dodd before he’d hit a ball and Donaldson with a ten over par 81 recorded, both citing bad backs.
Bridgend’s Rhys Davies will be happy enough after carding a 75 like Price but Richard Johnson will want to forget his 11 over par 82.
Amateur Rhys Pugh will be happy enough to be just two over par but Rhys Enoch (plus six) will be less content.