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Whitnell fires 64 to lie one shot off lead

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Dale Whitnell

Dale Whitnell

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Dale Whitnell

Former courier Dale Whitnell is in position to deliver a life-changing victory after a brilliant second round in the Betfred British Masters.

Whitnell fired an eagle and five birdies in a flawless 64 at Close House to finish 10 under par on the European Tour's full return to action, a shot behind Italy's Renato Paratore.

The 31-year-old from Colchester played on the 2009 Walker Cup team alongside Tommy Fleetwood but struggled to establish himself in the professional ranks and was forced to take on a courier job for 10 months to make ends meet.

A victory on the Portugal Pro Golf Tour earned him five Challenge Tour invites in 2019 and he won the KPMG Trophy last September before claiming his European Tour card from the qualifying school.

"I've been working hard on my game and this course suits me because it's a little bit fiddly in places," said Whitnell, who had not earned a single penny from five events in 2020 before the circuit shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm just trying to go about my business like I normally would and if it's good enough, it's good enough."

The first prize of £187,000 and two-year European Tour exemption would be life-changing but Whitnell added: "I try not to think about it, but it can be.

"Two-and-a-half years ago I went and got a job, I was a courier driver, just to finance my year playing on the mini tours. Financially it just wasn't viable, I couldn't carry on.

"The peaks and troughs of the golf profession are very interesting. You've just got to try to deal with it the best you can."

South Africa's Justin Harding fired a brilliant 63, the lowest round of the week so far, to sit alongside Whitnell on 10 under, with David Law, Calum Hill, Ashley Chesters and Rasmus Hojgaard a stroke further back.

Ryan Fox is three off the pace following a second consecutive 67 which made the long journey from New Zealand worth the effort.

Jonathan Caldwell is the highest-placed Irishman after the second round.

The Down native followed up a first round of 67 at Close House with a 69 on day two to finish on six under, five shots adrift of leader Paratore. Bogeys on the first and second holes were mitigated by birdies on the seventh, 10th, 13th and 18th holes.

Paul Dunne is five behind Caldwell on one under after carding a 70.