Both Philip Walton and Brendan McGovern came home with parity intact as the pair made solid starts to their Senior Italian Open bids.
Brendan McGovern / Image from Getty Images
The veterans negotiated Villaverde Resort in 72 blows each to share in a tie for 24th after sound openings. That number’s one better than Ronan Rafferty who returned three birdies and four dropped shots for a plus one total.
The Irish challengers have a bit to do with Rafael Gomez and Miguel Angel Martin leading the way in Italy as they both go in search of a maiden Staysure Tour title.
The pair are tied at the top of the leaderboard on six under par with defending champion Clark Dennis one-shot back after the opening round at Villaverde Resort at Golf Club Udine.
Former Senior Italian Open winner Stephen Dodd joins Clark in the chasing pack, alongside Australian Peter Fowler, who lost in a play-off to Dennis last year.
Spaniard Martin and Argentinian Gomez both set the pace early with four birdies each over the opening nine holes at the European Tour Destination. Martin bounced back from a bogey on the ninth hole to card four more birdies for a six under par round of 66 to join Gomez in a share for the lead. The Argentine gained two more shots after the turn to fire a bogey-free round on his way to the top to set the pace in Udine.
With five runner-up results on the over-50s circuit, Martin is on the lookout for his first victory and was delighted with the start he has made on the sun-kissed Villaverde Resort course.
“It was very good. I’m playing very well and I’m putting really well,” he said. “For a long time I didn’t putt as well as this. I’m hitting the ball quite well and it’s staying straight. I’m getting close to the hole on the greens and holing the key putts.
“I made two bogeys today, one was a three putt on number nine as the first putt was a long one from far away on the right. For the other bogey, I pulled my driver on 16 and then pulled my second shot into the water, so I had to take a drop and I was lucky to get a six.
“But at the moment so far so good and I hope I keep playing well like today.”
Had it not been for their bogeys on the 18th, both former champions would have joined the leading duo as they look to become the first player to claim two Senior Italian Open titles.
However, the 2017 John Jacobs Trophy winner is happy with his work in the defence of his first Staysure Tour title.
“I missed a two-foot putt on number two and had a bad break on 18. I hit it just left off the tee and was up against the tee and I couldn’t get it out, so I made a five. But I’m very pleased with my start,” Dennis said.
“You can’t win it today, but you can lose it, so I think I put myself in a good position for the next two days. It looks like we’re going to get fantastic weather, so I expect the scoring to be low and I’m going to have to make a lot of birdies.”