Whitehead’s John-Ross Galbraith fired a three-under-par 69 to head the Irish challenge after day one of the HotelPlanner.com PGA EuroPro Tour’s Matchroom Sport Championship at Harleyford Golf Club in Buckinghamshire.
The highlight of his round undoubtedly came at the par-4 14th where he holed out for an eagle two, but with four more birdies and three dropped shots on the card, Galbraith shares a tie for 18th spot after a fine opening effort.
Dermot McElroy is just a shot further back after he opened with a two-under 70 to grab a share of 29th. The Ballymena pro returned five birdies on a pleasant scoring day in England to set himself up nicely for the rest of the tournament.
McElroy has Kevin Phelan for company at minus-two after the Waterford man found some much needed form to card a 70 of his own, the highlight of which was an eagle three at the par-5 17th.
Indeed there were plenty of positive Irish performances on day one. West Cliff’s Brendan McCarroll, Team Ireland’s Brian Casey and Mount Juliet’s Luke Donnelly all signed for opening one-under-par 71s to occupy a large tie for 42nd after satisfying starts.
Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney didn’t fire on all cylinders where others made hay today but an even par opening effort is a foundation on which to build and he’ll be looking to get out of the blocks quickly to continue his good form of late.
Elsewhere, Woodcote Park’s Peter Williamson signed for a one-over-par 73 while Knock’s Colin Fairweather and North West’s Brian McElhinney have major work to do after disappointing plus four rounds to start their bid.
There’ll be better days ahead for Moyola Park’s Christ Selfridge after a seven-over-par start while Black Bush’s Stephen McCarthy is in a similar boat after a derailing ten-over-par 82.
At the head of affairs, four golfers share top spot after day one in Buckinghamshire.
Craig Ross (Kirkhill Golf Club), Andrew Cheese (Sutton Coldfield Golf Club), Louis Hirst (Banstead Downs Golf Club), and Cameron Long (Burton on Trent Golf Club) all carded excellent opening six-under-par rounds and sit a shot clear of their nearest rivals.
Ross was the first of four to reach the clubhouse and did so in style, picking up just a single bogey en route to his 66. “I felt I played really well today”: said the Scotsman, who burst onto the EuroPro Tour scene back in 2014 winning at Mar Hall Golf Club as an amateur.
He added: “I hit a lot of greens, but what was key to my round was my driving which gave me plenty of scoring chances. You can’t win it on the first day though, if I go out again tomorrow with a similar performance I’ll be in a great position.”
Cheese would have held the outright lead had it not been for a bogey on the 18th, but the former EuroPro Tour winner remained upbeat and said: “I felt good out there today, my approach shots were going just that bit closer and making those birdie putts easier.”
The last time Cheese carded an opening round of 66 the Midlands man finished T6, his best finish in the 2017 season. He said: “I’d like to look at that performance [at Mannings Heath] and take what I learnt then into the next few days.”
Long used the par 5’s to his advantage, picking up birdies on all four holes. A significant improvement to his last outing on the EuroPro Tour, where he carded an opening round of 74 at the Motocaddy Masters.
Hirst had a nightmare start to his round, picking up bogeys on two of his first three holes. However, a resurgence over the next 15 holes, including eight birdies, meant the Banstead Downs golfer completed his opening round in 66.
The Matchroom Sport Championship continues with the second round on Thursday (May 31), after which a cut to the leading 50 professionals and ties will be made. The final round takes place on Friday (June 1).
Spectator entry is free throughout and live scoring can be found at www.europrotour.com. Highlights of the Matchroom Sport Championship will air on Sky Sports on Tuesday June 12th.