Matthew McClean isn’t getting ahead of himself after opening his 127th Amateur Championship campaign with a four-under 68 at St Annes Old Links.
The Malone golfer has set the clubhouse lead in the 36-hole strokeplay qualifying as he took advantage of the fairer scoring conditions compared to Royal Lytham.
McClean carded seven birdies and three bogeys including two closing birdies to climb to the top of the leaderboard early on. The Irish international is in a great position to qualify for the match play stages with the top-64 progressing to Wednesday’s knockout phase but he insists there is still a long way to go before he gets there.
“Yeah, very happy that was sort of the idea, first round, don’t put yourself out of it,” said the Portrush Scratch Cup winner. “See where it is at the end of the day but I’ll need to play very well tomorrow to make the cut, that’s the goal, anywhere in the top 64, doesn’t matter if it’s first or 64th, it’s all the same.”
The world number 245 started slowly with a bogey on the fourth but roared to the turn with three birdies in four holes.
Birdies at 10 and 14 were cancelled out by dropped shots on 13 and 15 before he finished in style with a brace of birdies, including rolling in a ten-footer on the last.
McClean has been in terrific form this summer; a run that included four top-6 finishes in a row including a 6th place finish at the Lytham Trophy while he was also beaten in a playoff at the Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship.
It’s all part of the plan for the Ulsterman who works as an optometrist in the winter before assuming the role of full-time amateur during the season.
“I qualified about five years ago maybe as an optometrist. Took a new years off to play next to full-time golf. It’s pretty much full-time for me April onwards to September, and then back working over the winter to fund the summer golf,” he said.
“The Amateur is the biggest one of the year, so that’s ideally the one you want to play well at. Yeah, when you’re working it gives you a bit of a chance to take your mind off golf as well. Sometimes you’re not thinking about golf at all when you’re working over the winter.
“You can get too much golf at times as well. Nice to have a break at times, and these are sort of the weeks and the months that you look forward to over the year, yeah.”