Conor Purcell and Niall Kearney lead the six-strong Irish contingent at the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge after round one in Bangalore, India.
Both Purcell and Kearney fired four-under rounds of 68 to finish the day in a tie for 12th place, as five of the six Irish in attendance broke par in the opening round.
Purcell was out in the morning wave, and despite an opening bogey at the tenth – he played the back nine first – an eagle three on the 14th kick started the round and he added a birdie at the 17th to make the turn at -2. Two birdies and seven pars on the front side saw him reach the clubhouse at -4 with a solid and encouraging start to the week.
Kearney played in the afternoon, and making his first Challenge Tour start of the season, came racing from the blocks. A par at the tenth – his first – was followed by an eagle at the par-5 11th, and he’d birdie three on the spin afterwards, playing a four-hole stretch in five-under-par. Another birdie followed at the 17th and a par at the last saw him complete the back nine in 30 strokes. After four pars to begin the front nine, another birdie at the fifth took him to -7 for the day and up to third place on the leaderboard.
Unfortunately, a bogey at the sixth was compounded by a double-bogey-six at the seventh, dropping him back to four-under and he’d par his way home, signing for a 68 that he’ll no doubt feel could’ve been several shots better.
Castle amateur Rob Moran was next best of the Irish with an opening round of -2. Making his first Challenge Tour start outside of Ireland, Moran showed no sign of nerves as he birdied the first and followed with eight consecutive pars to cover the front nine in 35 strokes at -1. Back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 were just what the doctor ordered and he’d add another at the par-5 14th to get to -4 for the day, but bogeys at 16 and 18 meant he’d sign for a two-under round of 70 to lie tied for 43rd.
Dermot McElroy and John Murphy both shot one-under 71s to finish the day tied for 66th. McElroy, also making his first Challenge Tour start of the year, rebounded after carding two early bogeys to play the final 10 holes in three under, while Murphy fired five birdies but also four bogeys, including back-to-back dropped shots to end the day. Both will likely need to improve by a stroke or two in the second round if they’re to make it through to the weekend.
Ruaidhri McGee will need to go very low in round two if he’s to make the 36 hole cut after the Derry man carded just one birdie, with two bogeys and a double to finish the day on +3.
The early pace was set by Spaniard Manuel Elvira after the University of Central Florida graduate fired 10 birdies with just a solitary bogey as he raced to set a new course record and the early clubhouse target at -9, one ahead of Welshman Oliver Farr as he went bogey-free on his way to an eight-under 64.
“It feels amazing,” Elvira said afterwards. “I wasn’t thinking about the course record, but I just wanted to make that final putt to reach ten under par. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in but I’m really happy with my round today.
“Everything was on point with my game today. I put myself in position off the tee, hit some really good approach shots and then managed to hole my putts and make some birdies.”
“I’m going to stick to the game plan for the rest of the week,” he added. “I will be aggressive where I can but also be conservative when I have to which means I’ll look to attack the pins that are accessible but otherwise I will just hit the middle of the green.”
Matteo Manassero is among the eight-man group tied for third place at -5.
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