Superb opening round paves the way for Donald’s victory at Rockliffe

Sam Donald produced the goods when it mattered at Rockcliffe Hall to win his second Northern Masters title in three years.

The 20-year-old from Eaglescliffe posted a superb opening round of 68, the best score of the day, before admitting he might have taken his foot off the pedal on his way to a second round 75.

His one under-par total of 143 was always going to be difficult to match as he went into the second round with a four shot lead over John Kirkpatrick, a winner of the both the Cumbria and Durham County titles.

Kirkpatrick also had to settle for a second round 75 in windy conditions over the Hurworth course for a total of 147 – a score matched by Richmond’s Michael Henson (75-72) and Boldon’s Carl Thompson (73-74).

It was difficult to see where any real challenge would come from but players threatened. Donald’s Durham teammates Cameron Wallace and Rhys Thompson both posted second rounds of 73 for 149.

In the end Donald, who also won the Masters title in 2014, was a comfortable winner by four shots. He said: “I’ve shocked myself a bit today to be honest.

“I haven’t played for a week and didn’t expect much but I was three under-par after three and went on attacking everything.

“It paid off and I was five under-par after nine. I really like the course and know it like the back of my hand having worked here at one time.”

A change of jobs has led to a more relaxed attitude and it’s showing in his golf with three top-five finishes in his last five scratch events and an improvement in his handicap to plus-two.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in a real winning position,” he added. “On the back nine in the second round I was telling myself that par was going to be good enough, but I did get very nervous on the last two holes.”