Rounds of five and four-under respectively for John Murphy and Ruaidhri McGee see the Irish off to a strong start at Iberostar Real Golf Novo Sancti Petri in Cadiz at the Andalucía Challenge, while Dermot McElroy is nicely placed after an opening two-under round of 70.
Opting to tee it up on the Challenge Tour with the reduced-field Scandinavian Mixed being held in Sweden, Murphy was hoping for another confidence-building week having recently made his first paycheck on the DP World Tour, and he got off to an ideal start with birdies on three of the first five holes, before a bogey at the 18th (his ninth) dropped him back to -2 for the day.
An eagle-three at the par-5 second got him moving in the right direction again, and he’d follow up with another birdie at the fifth before parring home to reach the clubhouse at -5 which would see him end day one in a tie for eighth.
Ruaidhri McGee, who also started on the back nine, went bogey-free, carding birdies at the 11th, 14th and 17th to make the turn at -3, and he’d pick up another stroke at the second to get to -4 where he’d stay and record his best opening round of the season thus far which sees him lie T14.
Dermot McElroy played the course the traditional way, but he’d par just two of the opening nine, mixing four birdies with three bogeys to reach halfway at -1. He’d triple his par tally on the back side, this time recording three birdies and two bogeys to shoot matching one-under nines to end the day tied for 33rd at -2.
He’s two ahead of Conor Purcell who recovered well to shoot two-under on his final nine holes to card level-par, while Paul Dunne would be left to rue the three-hole stretch after the turn which he’d navigate in four-over to eventually post a disappointing three-over.
Filippo Celli and Sam Hutsby both posted nine under par opening rounds of 63 to claim a share of the first round lead.
Italian Celli carded an eagle, eight birdies and a single bogey to set the target early in the day before Englishman Hutsby produced a memorable bogey-free round which included three eagles to join the top of the leaderboard.
The duo lead by two from Germany’s Philipp Mejow, who posted a seven under par round of 65 to climb into third place.
Celli, who picked up the Silver Medal for the leading amateur at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews last year, is looking to become the third consecutive Italian winner on the Challenge Tour after Matteo Manassero and Andrea Pavan’s recent triumphs.
“I’m very happy with my round today,” he said. “My ball striking was really good, and I only missed one green, so I can’t ask for more than that. I put the ball close to the flags today and luckily the putter was hot too.
“I eagled the par four 14th after holing out with a wedge from 140 metres and things certainly went my way today. I only made one bogey after I missed the green on 18. I hit a good chip but unfortunately, I missed the putt and dropped a shot.
“It was raining a lot when I started my round this morning, however the wind was quite calm. The wind started to pick up on my final four holes, so I think it was definitely better to be out there early.”
“It was a special day with three eagles on the card,” Hutsby said. “Everything seemed to go my way with a couple of chip-ins and two very long putts.
“I haven’t been playing my best golf in recent weeks on the DP World Tour and my confidence was relatively low coming into the week. Today is what I needed and there were some great signs out there on the course.
“I tried not to analyse my swing too much because I’m quite a feel player. I drove the ball very well today and it was nice that everything came together. It’s only my second round this year where I’ve been bogey-free.”
South African Keenan Davidse, Spaniard Pedro Oriol, Australian Jordan Zunic and American Aman Gupta share fourth place on six under par, while six players are a shot further back on five under including four-time DP World Tour winner Manassero.