Only two shots separate Ireland’s five European Tour hopefuls after a solid opening effort at Final Stage Qualifying School in Spain.
Lumine Golf Club was once again the venue as 156 players got underway in the traditional six-round format in a bid to secure one of 25 full-time tickets to the European Tour.
Tramore’s Robin Dawson leads Ireland’s contenders after opening with a two-under par round of 70 on the Hills Course. Starting on the back-nine, the 24-year old bogeyed his opening hole but steadied the ship with nine straight pars before picking up a birdie at the par-5 2nd, his 11th.
Just like the buses, you’ve been waiting for one all day and two arrive at once with Dawson picking up another shot at his 12th. The Portmarnock Links touring professional picked up another on the way in and at minus-two, he trails American John Catlin by four strokes, two-under currently good enough for a share of 33rd.
One shot further adrift in a tie for 51st and in the red at minus-one sits Jonathan Caldwell, Niall Kearney and Michael Hoey after they all enjoyed steady starts.
Royal Dublin’s Kearney, also playing on the Hills Course, bounced back from two outward half bogeys with three gains in succession from the 11th and although he bogeyed his penultimate hole, he showed great bounce-back-ability on 18 to birdie the last and post a good number.
Mount Juliet’s Moynihan meanwhile, who was tackling the Lakes Course at Lumine, fired five birdies with all but one of them cancelled out by two bogeys and a double in an up and down opening day that left him at minus-one.
Back on the Hills Course, Clandeboye’s Caldwell traded three birdies with two bogeys in an uneventful 71 with all three players easing their way into the stamina testing examination on day one.
While last but not least, Ballymoney’s Hoey had got to two-under through 14-holes on the Lakes Course and without a bogey in sight before two closing bogeys on 15 and 18 took the gloss off an otherwise encouraging opening day, leaving the five-time European Tour winner back in a share of 80th, albeit only six shots off the leader.
As expected, the field is tightly bunched as players, no doubt nervous given all that’s at stake, felt their way into the tournament on day one.
Over the first four rounds of Final Stage, all competitors will play two rounds on each of the Lakes Course and the Hills Course before a cut will reduce the field to the top 70 players and ties, who will contest the final two rounds on the Lakes Course.
While the top 25 players and ties will receive European Tour playing privileges, the rest of the field who makes the four-round cut will receive full playing rights on the European Challenge Tour next year.
Full scoring HERE