Ruaidhri McGee returned a wonderful 67 wallops to grab a share of 7th spot after day one of the Italian Challenge presented by Cashback World.
The Rosapenna professional heads the Irish challenge after a fine opening round, the foundations of which were built by a blistering start in Sardinia.
An eagle three on the 1st was followed by successive birdies at 5 and 6 but the excitement of his rapid progress may have even got to Ruaidhri at that stage. Bogeys at 7 and 9 extinguished the flames but a resilient stretch of pars punctuated by gains on 16 and 18 means McGee sits just three shots off the lead at four-under-par.
That’s one shot better than Michael Hoey and Gavin Moynihan who looked comfortable in themselves after signing for 68s. The pair each carded just the one dropped shot in an encouraging start that finds them in a share of 19th on three-under-par.
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy signed for something on which to build too as his one-under-par 71 sits him just outside the top-50. That’s the same number as Paul McBride who fired five birdies to start but will be looking to limit the mistakes today in order to ensure his progress into the weekend.
Cormac Sharvin is the only other Irishman at parity or better; the Ardglass man with work to do after a subdued level par opening.
Both Gary Hurley (+2) and Stephen Grant (+3) will need low rounds today to stand any chance of making the weekend cut.
Tied at the top, Mario Galiano Aguilar and Sebastian Soderberg both carded seven-under-par rounds of 64 to sit one shot ahead of the rest of the field after the first round in Italy.
The pair both excelled on the first day at Sardinia’s Is Molas Resort, making the most of calm conditions to sit one clear of England’s Jack Singh Brar and Norway’s Eirik Tage Johansen after 18 holes.
Spain’s Galiano Aguilar notched eight birdies and dropped one shot en route to carding the lowest round in his European Challenge Tour career to take the clubhouse lead, which Sweden’s Soderberg matched by bagging seven birdies for his bogey-free score.
Soderberg, who lies in 11th place on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah this season after three top ten finishes, was delighted to return to form following a poor run of recent results.
“It was good out there,” he said. “I got off to a hot start and then made a lot of pars towards the end, and then got a few extra birdies on the final few holes which was nice.
“My golf hasn’t felt too good during the last few weeks. I’m coming off two bad weeks and I’m trying to fight back, so it was nice to shoot a good round today.
“Conditions were fairly easy today. There was barely any wind, just a touch of breeze, so you could attack most of the flags.
“The greens are a little tricky, so it helps when you can get close to the pins. I’ve been hitting my wedges really well which gave me plenty of opportunities to score.”
Hot on the heels of the leaders are Johansen and Singh Brar, who both signed for six under par rounds of 65 to sit one shot off the pace after the opening round.
Englishman Singh Brar went bogey-free in the Sardinia sunshine as he continued his impressive rookie season on the Challenge Tour. While Denmark’s Johansen was pleased to put himself in contention after his lowest round of 2018.
“I’ve made a lot of cuts this year but haven’t been able to record a big finish yet,” said Johansen. “I had a top ten result in Saint Omer, which was good, but I’m hoping to build on that and sneak an even better finish at the end of the week.”
Also impressing in Italy was home favourite Filippo Bergamaschi, who is in the mix after carding five birdies and one bogey to post a four-under-par score of 67.