Alfie Plants the idea of earning Saudi gold

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Alfie Plant who won the 2017 European Amateur Championship at Walton Heath to earn a spot in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Picture by ANDREW GRIFFIN AMG Pictures

KENT’S Alfie Plant is on course to make the biggest pay cheque of his career so far after surviving a nervy second round in the inaugural Saudi Invitational, on Friday.

The 26-year-old, from Sundridge Park, played in the worst of the conditions in the first group out of the afternoon starters at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

The 2017 European Amateur Champion suffered five blemishes on his card but hung on over the back nine to card a four-over par 74 to make the cut by two shots.

That was in sharp contrast to his first round when the Kent ace, who qualified to play in the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale, fired seven biridies in his first eight holes to go out in 28.

That included five in a row as he made the most of the calm conditions playing in the second group out when there was no wind and the greens on the course which is less than a year old were in pristine condition.

In the second round, Plant, who won the Silver Medal representing England at the World Amateur Championship in Mexico in 2016, playing alongside Hampshire’s Scott Gregory, made just one biridie at the ninth.

The player ranked 1,410 in the world had dropped a shot at the fifth after four straight pars.

But with the chance to play the weekend with some of the biggest names in the world of golf, the pressure mounted.

Shots went at the 12th, 14th and 16th and the last but the cut mark fell at one-over par while American Dustin Johnson made light of the trickier conditions on day two, by firing a superb 61 in the morning to jump to the top of the leaderboard.

While Plant now trails the leader by 10 shots going into the weekend, he will be determined to make the most of his invitation to play in the tournament.

His biggest payday since turning pro after the Walker Cup in 2017, when he played alongside Hampshire trio of Harry Ellis, Jack Singh-Brar and Scott Gregory, came at the Valderrama Masters when he earned €10,400 after finishing tied for 46th.

Plant admitted he is slowing getting used to the pressures of playing on sponsors’ invites having failed to progress past the second stage of last year’s European Tour Qualifying School.

Alfie, who sits in a share of 47th place after 36 holes,  said: “My first few invites, there was definitely a little bit of pressure. But now, just got to get your head down and just got to shoot 25-under.

“I don’t have time to think or get nervous anymore.”

Plant, who won the Kent Amateur Championship in 2013, admitted he had not even realised he had covered the front nine on Thursday in just 28 to be seven-under par and the tournament’s early leader.

“I didn’t realise I was on 28, actually until I came in. I’ve never shot 28 before on the front nine or back nine Enjoyed it.

“I holed one from 30 feet early on and everything else was inside six feet.”

The only blemishes on his first round card came with bogeys at the sixth and ninth – his last of the day.

Plant, who had two starts on the European Tour last year, admitted he thought the front nine of the course, which was his back nine in round one, looked more challenging.

But with the wind up on Friday afternoon, he found out how good his play really had been 24 hours earlier.

Alfie added: “I always thought the front nine was a little bit more challenging – just a bit longer. You’ve got to hit a lot more good shots.”

But having grown up playing Kent’s top links courses – including Royal St George’s, Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports, which have all hosted the Open Championship – Plant thinks he has an advantage going into the weekend.

He said: “It suits my eye, and you know, if you can get your iron play, go at the flags, you can make a good score out here.

“I feel like the bunkers are placed at nice distances for me to lay up to and not get into too much trouble.

“You have to do well off the tee, and also, the greens are quite undulating.

“So you’ve got quite a lot of bowls out there which if you can get in them, you can certainly have a few birdies.”

After playing 10 events on the European Challenge Tour in 2018 – earning just €7,621 after making four cuts – the chance to cash in at oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s first-ever European Tour event could do him the power of good.

A top 20 place is worth €42,000 so every shot will count on Saturday and Sunday.

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