Damian Mooney returned a solid even par effort to lay an extremely workable foundation on day one of Staysure Tour Qualifying School Final Stage.
Mooney traded three birdies with three bogeys to share 15th place overnight with Spaniard Carl Suneson heading the field at six-under par.
It was a disappointing day for Ireland’s other competing duo as Headfort’s Brendan McGovern (+5) and Kilkenny’s Jimmy Bolger (+7) did their hopes of securing one of five cards on offer this week serious harm.
Their chances weren’t helped by Suneson’s hot scoring in a round of 65 that featured eight birdies and two bogeys at Pestana Golf Resort’s Pinta Course.
After his round, the former European Tour winner admitted he has addressed physical limitations that impacted his performance over the previous two seasons on the Staysure Tour.
“I’ve had two years with bad shoulders and that has set me back a bit,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot on physiotherapy. I had a lot of tension that went down to my shoulders and I stopped playing golf for four or five years. I couldn’t move them. It’s scary how bad my elasticity was. Some people told me to operate, and I’m thankful I didn’t.
“You’ve got to go to physio. You think you can do it by yourself but you can’t. You need to push it to the limit all the time and bit by bit it gets the slump in the shoulders out.
“Over the past three or four months I’ve been playing better and better and I’m hitting it a lot better, so, if you hit it well then doors open. You hit more fairways, make more putts, and the attitude changes.”
The 52-year-old currently leads by one shot over Canadian David Morland IV and Englishman Mark Booth, who both carded rounds of 66, five under par, while Kiwi Michael Long and Scottish amateur Euan McIntosh currently round out the top five qualification spots after carding rounds of 67 and 68 respectively.
Suneson has one goal in mind, despite sitting at the top of the leaderboard in a pressure-packed week.
“I told myself before we started that I wanted to win by 12,” he said. “With only five cards available, you can’t afford to think about anything but winning, you just have to go for it.”
The second round of Final Stage begins tomorrow at 9:00 am local time with Englishmen Stephen Bennett and Neil Cheetham joining Ecuadorian Rafael Ponce in the first group out, while Suneson tees off at the tenth hole alongside Englishmen Craig Corrigan and Nigel Sweet at 10:50 am.
Full scoring HERE