Jonathan Caldwell burst out of the traps with a bogey-free five-under par round of 67 to head the Irish charge in the men’s competition on day one of the ISPS Handa Vic Open.
The 13th Beach Golf Club in Australia was playing host to a unique week on the 2020 Race to Dubai, with both a men and a women’s tournament being played over the same courses for equal prize money.
The field will play the Creek Course and the Beach Course on days one and two before moving to the Beach on the weekend, as the Vic Open makes its second appearance on the European Tour.
On the Beach Course, Clandeboye’s Caldwell made the turn in two under before racing to the clubhouse with three birdies in his final four holes.
At minus-five, the man who bolted to a European Tour card at Q-School in November finds himself just inside the top-15 with Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares out in front by two at nine-under.
Ardglass rookie Cormac Sharvin also started well in posting a two-under par round of 70 on the Creek Course.
Sharvin fired four birdies, two either side of the turn, along with two dropped shots and sits just inside the top-70 after a day of impressive scoring Down Under.
None were more impressive than the leader, Cañizares, who mastered the wind late in the day to finish his round with three birdies to take a two shot lead after 18 holes in Victoria.
Cañizares was playing the more forgiving Creek Course but needed to control the ball in the afternoon winds, making ten birdies and a bogey in a 63 to move to nine under.
There was an all Australian group two shots back containing Jake McLeod, Travis Smyth, Matthew Griffin and Justin Warren – who carded the lowest round of the day on the Beach Course.
Cañizares and McLeod’s fellow Qualifying School graduates Aaron Cockerill and Robin Sciot-Siegrist were at six under alongside seven Australians including Min Woo Lee and Tom McKibbin’s Australian Amateur conqueror, Jed Morgan.
Cañizares has had to come through the Q School for the past two seasons and has missed his last three cuts but the son of Ryder Cup great José Maria Cañizares is a two-time European Tour winner, and he showed that class in Victoria.
“It was a great round,” he said. “I putted really well, I hit the ball well as well, I don’t think I missed many greens. It was one of those days where you saw the hole pretty big.
“I didn’t have many expectations because it’s a long way from home so you don’t know how you’re going to feel but I was hitting the ball well, I’m working on the right things.
“I’m just surprised I’ve played so crap the last three years more so than today. It’s been complicated, I got injured three years ago and it took a while. I became a dad a year ago, life changes.
“I’m getting back to it. I’m starting to work hard on it and I’m still motivated. I’ve been on Tour for 13 or 14 years and I still want to do it. I’ve still got half of my career ahead of me.”
Full scoring HERE