Gavin Moynihan got his Rolex Trophy off to a fast start as the Island man carded an opening round of 68 at Golf Club de Genève.
Carding five birdies and only one drop shot at the Par 3 seventeenth its Moynihan’s first trip to the prestigious Rolex Trophy which is the longest-running tournament on the Challenge Tour, having formed part of the schedule ever since the tour’s inception in 1989.
Each year, an exclusive field assembles at Golf Club de Genève, with the top 42 players on the Road to Oman taking part in a pro-am format, unique in the Challenge Tour season.
Moynihan was the only Irish player to qualify as he sits in 27th in the Race to Oman rankings hoping to push closer to the magic top 15 who will earn their 2018 European Tour cards.
Two shots ahead of Moynihan was Borja Virto who took a share of the first round at Golf Club de Genève, carding a six under par round of 66 that was later matched by Ricardo Santos.
The Spaniard, twice a European Challenge Tour winner, was out in the first match and made the most of perfect scoring conditions to mix an eagle and six birdies with two bogeys and set the clubhouse target.
Having spent last season on the European Tour, Virto is keen to get back into the top 15 of the Road to Oman Rankings and graduate again, and he is aware how helpful a good finish in this week’s prestigious tournament would be in achieving that goal.
“I’m happy with that,” said the 26 year old. “I finished with a bogey, which was a shame, but I’m especially happy because I actually thought I shot five under, so it was nice when I realised it was actually six.
“I played two years ago and I like the course a lot – they’ve made a couple of changes which make it even better.
“My game was feeling really good before I came here and I just played really well, made a couple of really good putts, especially for eagle on 15, so I’m very happy with the long game, short game, everything feels quite good.
“I’ve played a few events on the European Tour so I haven’t been fully focussing on the Challenge Tour perhaps but when I have played I’ve been playing well but I haven’t been able to put together a perfect week.
“I haven’t been able to vie for the title at any stage – I’ve been close and had a couple of good finishes, but not a really great week. But the big events really start now, so I have a good chance to make the top 15 again.”
“It’s a bit different with the format this week. Today I played with Dominic Foos, who’s a good friend of mine, and I enjoyed it with the juniors as well so it was a lot of fun out there.
“The next three days is with three amateurs but I am used to playing pro-ams every week and I enjoy it so I’ll just try to do my best out there in the next rounds.”
Only 42 of the Challenge Tour’s finest are teeing it up in Geneva for this exclusive event, which is unique on the Road to Oman in taking the form of a pro-am.
The opening round was an alliance format, with each professional partnering a promising junior from the nearby Geneva golf clubs, while the rest of the week they will form part of four-man teams with three amateurs.
Santos, who has three top tens to his name already this year, continued his good recent form with a bogey-free opening round to join Virto on six under par, two shots clear of the chasing pack.
Behind them, Foos shares third place with Lorenzo Gagli, Thomas Linard and Gavin Moynihan on four under par, with Scott Fernandez, James Heath, Victor Perez, Erik van Rooyen and last week’s winner Clément Sordet one shot further back.
Scores after Round One:
66 B Virto (Esp) , R Santos (Por) ,
68 G Moynihan (Irl) , D Foos (Ger) , T Linard (Fra) , L Gagli (Ita) ,
69 J Heath (Eng) , V Perez (Fra) , E Van Rooyen (RSA) , S Fernandez (Esp) , C Sordet (Fra) ,
70 J Doherty (Sco) , M Kinhult (Swe) , M Lundberg (Swe) , P Oriol (Esp) , A Saddier (Fra) , R Evans (Eng) , C Ford (Eng) ,
71 C Mivis (Bel) , J Girrbach (Sui) , M Ford (Eng) , M Madsen (Den) , J Sjöholm (Swe) , T Pulkkanen (Fin) ,
72 N Cullen (Aus) , M Wiegele (Aut) , P Howard (Eng) , S Brown (Eng) , A Tadini (Ita) , R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) , C Koepka (USA) ,
73 R McEvoy (Eng) , O Stark (Swe) , F Laporta (Ita) ,
74 J Guerrier (Fra) , J Senior (Eng) ,
75 G Porteous (Eng) , B Neil (Sco) , O Farr (Wal) ,
76 E Goya (Arg) , S Forsström (Swe) ,
78 M Tullo (Chi)