Belt braced for tilt at Leeds Cup just two adrift of leader

Ben Mason is chasing victory in the Leeds Cup today.
Ben Mason is chasing victory in the Leeds Cup today.
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The pursuit of professional golf’s oldest trophy will go down to the wire this afternoon as a congested leaderboard attests in the Leeds Cup.

The prestigious competition, which dates back to 1902 and lists six-time Open champion Harry Vardon among its winners, began yesterday in capricious conditions at De Vere Oulton Hall.

A number of Yorkshiremen are in the hunt as they begin their second and final round this morning, with Alex Belt – joint winner of the pro-am on Monday – two shots adrift of leader David Smith.

Belt – who leads the PGA North region’s order of merit – is in a group of five players including Dewsbury’s former European Tour player Ben Mason and Owston Hall’s James Freeman, in a tie for sixth after rounds of 69.

But it is Smith who leads the way, just a matter of weeks after returning from a shoulder injury that he feared would hasten the end of his career.

The 41-year-old professional at Manchester club Swinton Park, said: “I received the all-clear last November, but my recovery coincided with taking over the club professional’s job so I decided to restrict my schedule while I settled in.

“I must admit I came into this event with low expectations.”

A four-under-par 67 put Smith on course to repeat his 2011 victory in the revered competition.

“It would be fantastic to win it again,” he said as he led by a shot from a group of four including former European Tour player John Mellor, from The Oaks (York), and PGA North serial winner David Shacklady, attached to Lancashire club Mossock Hall.

Aran Wainwright (Mid Yorkshire) begins today’s second round three off the lead after shooting a 70, a score matched by Andrew Turner (Knaresborough), Fraser Kelly (Scarborough North Cliff), John King (Lindrick), Sheffield’s Oliver Whiteley, who now plays out of Bramall Park in Stockport, Matthew Swindell (Renishaw Park) and Matthew Daley (Hainsworth Park).

Long-time European Tour player Iain Pyman shot a 71, along with James Murray (Leeds Golf Centre) and Gareth Davies (Abbeydale).

Nick Ludwell (Selby), Adrian Ambler (Low Laithes), Aaron Hodkin (Wheatley) and Robert Booth (Crosland Heath) shot 72.

Fifty-four players made the halfway cut in a PGA North tournament that offers a prize pool of £13,980, with a top prize of £2,500.

Richard Masters (Baildon) and Daniel Walsh (Garforth) missed the cut by a shot.

Tee times run from 7.51am to 1.39pm today at Oulton Hall.