Graeme Storm flew the flag for the North East with a five under-par 65 to finish just two shots off the lead on day one of the British Masters at Close House.
Storm, who was followed by hundreds of local golf fans throughout his opening round, said: “If you’d given me 65 before I teed off I would have taken it.
“I left a couple of chances out there but made a couple of good par saves at 13 and 17 so overall I’m really pleased. I’m playing well and enjoying seeing my name up there.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I’m planning to play hard and see what score I can come out with,” said Storm following his round, which included six birdies and one bogey.
Storm surged to within two shots of the lead on a remarkable day at Close House – which saw more than 18,500 fans line the fairways.
“It’s a good feeling to have so many people supporting me,” added Storm. “I was little bit nervous at times with so many people I know watching to be honest. It was impressive to see so many people here, I knew it was going to be a busy day when it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get here.”
North East-based tournament host Lee Westwood is also in contention following an opening day 66 to finish three shots behind leader George Coetzee.
Northern Golfer columnist Chris Paisley will be looking for a low round tomorrow as he bids to make the cut. Paisley, from Stocksfield, shot an opening round 73 having dropped four shots on his opening nine (10th tee start), before rallying with birdies at the second and fourth.
“It was a really up and down day,” said Chris.
“I made a daft mistake early on with a double bogey at the 14th and maybe I was trying a bit too hard in front of my home crowd. I holed a couple of good putts at two and four and I know I’m not too far from a good score.
“I couldn’t believe the size of the crowds out there today. The course looked amazing from the top of the hill and it’s a great showcase for golf in the North East.
“My game has been in good shape recently and today is nothing a good second round won’t sort out,” added Chris.
Meanwhile, Close House’s Jonathan Lupton shot a first round 72 having reached two under-par early in his round. Lupton, who struggled with a rib injury throughout his round, said: “I struggled with the driver today, hitting just four fairways, so it was always going to be tough.
“Despite the injury and the score today, I couldn’t be happier to be here. I loved it out there. The scoring out there is impressive and the crowds are really impressive’ Let’s hope for more of the same this week.”
Round two (Friday) tee times
Lee Westwood (with Alex Noren and Sergio Garcia) – 8.10am (10th tee)
Graeme Storm (with Haotong Lee and Miguel Angel Jimenez) – 8.40am (10th tee)
Jon Lupton (with Sam Walker and David Drysdale) – 8.40am (1st tee)
Chris Paisley (with Nacho Elvira and Joakim Lagergren) – 12.10pm (1st tee)