Golf: Dredge recovers from experiencing bottom line

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The Independent Online
BRADLEY DREDGE felt he was due a good day. In fact, he reasoned he was due a very good day. When you have suffered on the golf course it is the sureness that every bad experience has its opposite that sustains you.

Last week, in his first event on the European Tour, he was going to make the cut in the Benson and Hedges International at St Mellion. A finish of bogey, double-bogey had not helped, but the axe was falling behind him and that was reason enough for congratulation when you are an amateur testing your skills in the professional world.

Then the bad news hit the 20-year-old Welsh champion. He had taken the wrong drop at the last hole and, having signed for an incorrect score as a result, there was no option but disqualification.

For Dredge, it was an illustration of the pitfalls that can ambush a young player. Big fish in the amateur pool - he is a Walker Cup player - do not necessarily make the grade in the paid ranks for any number of reasons. For every Nick Faldo, there are dozens of golfers who burn brightly among their peers but fade from sight in more elevated company.

There were plenty in their late teens and early 20s in the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship here yesterday with greater things on their minds. They had travelled from eight countries to play for the Brabazon Trophy, the most prestigious non-paid strokeplay prize in the country, but ample cheques and professional glory were just beyond the mental horizon.

In the distant past, the field would have had its stalwarts, veterans with too many other interests to devote their full time to golf, but yesterday the field was almost exclusively the province of the young. The tournament was a stepping stone towards meeting Sandy Lyle, a former winner of the event, et al on equal terms.

'You can't tell who'll make the grade,' Martin Foster, whose shock of grey hair startled in the company of youngsters, said. 'You get some players who look like world-beaters at this level but they don't necessarily do it in the pros. It's hard, very hard. There are so many good players.

Foster, 41, has the experience to judge. He was good enough to finish seventh in the professional European Order of Merit in 1976 and represented England in the World Cup. In that year, he earned around pounds 20,000, a small fortune 18 years ago, but after a six-year penance, he has reverted back to the non-paid ranks to 'play for fun'.

'If a young player asked me for one tip before turning pro, I'd take him to the practice ground and I'd want to know if he knew about the golf swing,' he continued. 'If he didn't, I'd tell him not to bother. I can remember talking to Ian Woosnam in the Seventies and he was talking on a plane we couldn't understand. He was ahead of his time, you need to know the mechanics now.'

Meanwhile, Dredge, who contemplated turning professional after last year's Walker Cup match, was hitting seven birdies in a four-under-par 68 that ensured he would be among the first-round leaders. One of his good days had arrived on cue.

ENGLISH OPEN AMATEUR STROKEPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield) Leading first-round scores: 67 S Griffiths (Wentworth). 68 B Dredge (Bryn Meadows). 69 W Bennett (Ruislip). 70 M Foster (Worksop), R McGuirk (Princes), M Kelley (Ganton), G Wolstenholme (Bristol and Clifton). 71 A Haworth (Stoneham), R Rodriguez (Sp), F Valera (Sp). 72 D Park (The Herefordshire), T Milford (Sittingbourne), G Harris (Broome Manor), D Delagrange (Fr), S Webster (Ifield).