Sam Locke leads Tartan Pro Tour event on return to Carnoustie
2018 Open Silver Medal winner cards four-under-par 68 at Angus venue
Carnoustie continues to bring out the best in Sam Locke as the leading amateur in the 2018 Open Championship returned to the Angus venue to set the pace in the first event on the new Tartan Pro Tour.
In ideal scoring conditions for the first round of the £19,000 Carnoustie Challenge, the 21-year-old carded a four-under-par 68 to lead by a shot from Danny Kay and Ross Cameron.
"I’ve not played a lot at Carnoustie, but when I have it has provided good memories, so I always love coming back," admitted Locke, who turned professional straight after that eye-catching performance in the world's oldest major just over two years ago.
After opening with five straight pars, the former Scottish Amateur champion picked up his first birdie of the day at the par-5 sixth only to follow that with a double-bogey 6 after his second shot went out of bounds.
He recovered from that setback, though, with a birdie-2 at the eighth, an eagle-3 at the 12th and a birdie-4 at the 14th and was understandably pleased with his day's work.
"I played steady, holing a couple of nice putts, including one from around 12 feet for an eagle at the 12th, which was good," said Locke. "I also came close to an eagle at the 14th and, all in all, it was pretty solid.
"The course is absolutely brilliant and the greens are so pure, everyone will be loving getting the chance to putt on them.
"Though it's thick in patches, there's not as much rough as normal, so I was able to be a bit more aggressive off the tee. I actually got away with a couple of poor drives as I was still able to get shots into the green."
Locke, who is mentored and managed by Paul Lawrie, played in some MENA Tour events at the start of the year before being left with no playing opportunities at all when the PGA EuroPro Tour scrapped its entire 2020 schedule due to the coronavirus.
It was a welcome boost, therefore, when Lawrie announced he was launching his new six-event circuit in Scotland, with tournaments also set to take place at Royal Dornoch and St Andrews in the coming few weeks.
"It's been quite tricky this year due to lockdown, though everyone is in the same boat at the level I'm at just now," said Locke.
"I've been playing as much as I can with my pals and now it's great to have competitive golf again.
"I had been playing mini-competitions with my friends, but it's not the same and I took a few holes today to get into my rhythm."
Kay, who lost to David Law in the 2009 Scottish Amateur Championship final, signed for four birdies while Cameron was bogey-free as they ended the day as Locke's closest challengers.
"I will just go out tomorrow and play my own game and see what happens," said te leader. "I'm just trying to enjoy my golf as the last few months have made me appreciate how good it is to play golf for a living."
Two-time Challenge Tour winner Jamie McLeary sits fourth after a 70, one ahead of a group that includes Andrew Crerar, Scott Henry and Chris Robb, as well as James Johnston and Matt Hogg.
Lawrie lies joint-10th on level-par, with Kylie Henry and Jane Turner the leading women on one-over on a day when Irish star Leona Maguire had to settle for a three-over 75.
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