Tulfarris professional Simon Thornton signed for a four-under par 68 to set the standard by two strokes atop the leaderboard after day one of The PGA Play-Offs at PGA National Slieve Russell.
21 PGA members took their chance on the opening day with the top-3 players from each region all fighting for lucrative DP World Tour and Challenge Tour starts at the £25,000 three-day event.
Thornton, who has one win to his name on the then European Tour in 2013, carded five birdies and just one dropped shot in a pleasing effort, not least off the back of a less than ideal prep run last week at The K Club.
“I played in The K Club which told me where my game’s at, which is not where today’s score is at,” Thornton said after shooting 77 last week.
“But I think when it comes to proper competitive golf, I’m quite good at focussing in on shot by shot, target by target. I hit a couple of sloppy shots but overall I’m delighted with how I played.”
Thornton was victorious on last year’s PGA EuroPro Tour and although he can’t dedicate the same time into his game as in previous years, the 45-year old would relish the opportunities that come with a big showing this week in Cavan.
“Listen, at this stage of my career and in life, anything’s a bonus so I’m just going out there and playing golf and seeing how we go,” Thornton added.
“I do love to play and compete at the highest level. Just sort of dip in and dip out and test yourself every now and then, so yeah, to get the spots would be great but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t.
“I’m just going to go play two more rounds of golf, add them all up at the end and see where I finish.”
Thornton leads a four-way tie for second after Waterville’s David Higgins, Renaissance Club’s Chris Doak, Torphins’ Greig Hutcheon, and Davenporth’s Jamie Howarth all recorded two-under 70s.
“We’ve not had a lot of golf to be fair, the season’s just started, the grass hasn’t even grown yet, but the course is in great nick. We’re all just happy to be here,” said Doak, who collected the title in 2008.
“I’ve been here before. It’s a few years ago now since I’ve picked up that trophy but it would be nice to do it again. You never know.”
Meanwhile, Irish PGA stalwart David Higgins was refusing to get ahead of himself in pursuit of glory on a track he knows so well.
“I’ve had great success here down through the years in Pro-Am’s and all sorts but I like it here and I’m comfortable here so I’m looking forward to the next couple of rounds,” said Higgins.
“There’s a lot of opportunity but I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to sharpen up the game, play better, and all those things look after themselves. You can’t be looking at what’s going to happen. Just play your best, that’s all you can do.”
In-all, nine players broke par on day one with Assistant Pro Daniel Brown along with club-mate Michael Farrier-Twist (Seddlescombe Golf Club) joining Alister Balcombe (Weston Super Mare) and Matthew Cort (Beedles Lake) at one-under.
“Yeah, very pleased, especially with the start I had,” said Brown, who recovered brilliantly from three bogeys in his first four holes to post four back nine birdies and find the clubhouse in the red.
“It was a little bit of a nervous start and the first few holes are quite a tough stretch as well so to get through that and turn the corner on the back nine was good
“It’s not easy balancing exams and playing but hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll have a good week this week.”
Opportunity knocks for players this week; as well as a slice of the £25,000 prize fund on offer, further possible riches loom at the following DP World starts:
BMW PGA Championship – 1 spot
British Masters – 2 spots
Irish Open – 1 spot
Cazoo Open – 3 spots
ISPS Handa World Invitational – 1 spot
Cazoo Classic – 3 spots
Scottish Hero Open – 3 spots
PGA of South Africa PGA Championship – 1 spot
Furthermore, the leading three eligible players from the 2022 PGA Play-Offs will automatically qualify for the 2022 Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team.
In the event of a tie for the final place, a ‘hole-by-hole’ play-off will be held to determine team places.
- Full scoring HERE
— The PGA (@ThePGA) April 26, 2022