Golf: Parkin back in contention after 10 years in wilderness: Lane's birdie barrage brings lead in English Open but Woosnam and his former World Cup partner are just two shots off the pace

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The Independent Online
Apart from the fact that he has not been in contention anywhere for about ten years, Philip Parkin had another incentive to do well here yesterday. 'I tried hard to keep it going because my wife and children were arriving and I wanted them to see my name on the leaderboard,' Parkin said.

He did them proud, finishing with a 68, four under par, in the first round of the Murphy's English Open. The rise and fall of Parkin is one of the most remarkable in golf. In 1982, in gale force winds at St Andrews, he won the British Youths Championship; the following year he won the Amateur Championship at Turnberry in such commanding fashion that the wise judges at the Royal and Ancient thought they had seen a future holder of the old silver claret jug itself.

After playing his part in the Walker Cup, Parkin turned professional and was Rookie of the Year in 1984, the season he partnered Ian Woosnam in the World Cup. It all began to go wrong for Parkin when he tried his hand in America; a failed marriage, monetary problems, loss of form.

Yesterday, Woosnam was re- united with Parkin, if only in terms of scoring. 'I haven't seen him for years,' Woosnam said. 'On his day he could be a world beater. He was an unbelievable chipper and putter but once the touch goes around the greens it's difficult to score well. I think he went to America too quickly. It's a hard game. You just disappear. Somehow he's got to get some cash and invitations.'

Parkin, who has hardly played at all in recent years, has been working on a driving range, the Welsh Border Complex near his home town of Newtown in Powys. He has developed such a hook he could almost aim the ball towards England to keep it in Wales. He learnt on Tuesday that he had a sponsor's invitation and although he was too late to play a practice round he walked the course.

'This is such a good and difficult course a practice round might have scared me,' Parkin said. 'I felt the pressure. I have to give myself a good talking to before every shot otherwise I bale out. I shot 68 with no confidence whatsoever.' At the age of 32 Parkin has decided to go back to the European Tour Qualifying School at the end of the year.

Parkin picked up four strokes with birdies on 15 and 16 and an eagle on 17 where he hit a three-wood approach to 12 yards. The 17th, a par-five of 511 yards with a lake in front of the green, is trick or treat. Get a three and you're brave; get a seven and you're foolhardy. The Ryder Cup trio of Mark James, Peter Baker and Paul Broadhurst scored the hole 4, 6, 7 respectively. Playing the last six holes Baker, two under par, went bogey, bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey.

Barry Lane, who had seven birdies in four rounds at the US PGA Championship in Tulsa last week, equalled that number yesterday. His only bogey came at the sixth, but he had to hit a cracking shot at the 17th to save par after carving it right into ferns. Lane's 66 gave him a one-stroke lead over a group of players that spectators would have trouble in not only identifying but spelling and pronouncing.

A disparate bunch they are too: among others Eamonn Darcy, who had a 'few pints' after missing most of the year with a bad back; Phil Golding, a part-time model from South Herts and Nicklas Fasth, a Swede who wears sports glasses because 'they help me relax in sunny weather and help me read the line of putts'. The Forest of Arden should not be a happy hunting ground for Darcy considering that it was here 12 months ago that his back went. 'There's still life in the old dog yet,' Darcy said. 'If I win here I'll buy a few more cattle.'

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