Brendan McCarroll fired his best opening round of his Europro career to grab outright third after day one of the Pentahotels Championship at Caversham Heath Golf Club, Oxfordshire.
The West Cliff’s professional returned eight birdies in a superb seven-under-par 65, a solitary bogey at the 18th denying him a share of top spot on the leaderboard.
McCarroll has been in fine form this season and credits a change of coach for his upturn in fortunes on the fairways.
“I’ve been playing really well for the last couple of weeks, taking a week off last week has paid dividends as I felt fresh out there,” said McCarroll after his round. “The course is playing superbly and the greens are playing pure; a lot of my putts were finding the hole.”
“I definitely feel this is the best golf of my career, I’ve changed coach this year to a close friend from Galgorm Castle called Barry McGoldrick and we’ve been making some great strives forward throughout the whole year. I feel like a win for me is a matter of when, not if this season.”
Of the other Irish in the field, Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan finds himself in a share of 18th after a sound three-under-par opening effort. That’s one shot better than Cameron Raymond and North West’s Brian McElhinney after their 71st left them in a tie for 34th.
Whitehead’s Joh Ross Galbraith managed a level par opening but Tim Rice (+2), Chris Selfridge (+3), Luke Donnelly (+5) and Stephen McCarthy (+10) all face an uphill battle to make the 36-hole cut.
At the top, Owen Edwards and Mark Young both carded stellar opening rounds of 65 (-8), equalling the course record, to share the first-round lead in Oxfordshire.
Low scoring was the theme of the day as 73 golfers carded one-under par or better, but the headlines were stolen by Edwards (The Kendleshire) and Young (Longridge Golf Club) as they join two former EuroPro Tour players Tyrell Hatton and Min Kyu Kim in holding the professional course record.
Edwards was first in the clubhouse and looked set to hold the record outright had it not been his first and only bogey of the day on the 18th. Despite that the Welshman was feeling very positive ahead of his second round and said: “It was one of those days where everything went my way, it was on the whole an error free round. It would have been nice to take the course record with a par at the last but it’s great to be in company with Hatton and Kim.”
“Taking advantages on the par fives will be key to me this week, two eagles and a birdie is a great way to start the tournament, and I will look to build on that as the week progresses. I’m not thinking too much about scores heading into tomorrow and my game management will be important, I’ll start with the same approach and if I build some momentum throughout the round it will be a bonus.”
Young, a two-time winner on the EuroPro Tour this season, was closely behind Edwards with his 65, picking up four shots on both sides as well as being blemish free.
Reflecting on his round he said: “It was a quick start again, similar to when I first won at Clevedon. I played with two lads who both broke par and helped dragged me on. I managed to get some good putts rolling early on, I know I have to take my chances when they come and I did just that today.”
“It helps when you enjoy playing at a venue and Caversham is one that I have enjoyed in the past. It’s no secret the previous few haven’t been on the top of my list.
“Keeping it on the fairways was key to me today, I felt I played solid all round but I would say that was why I shot so low today. We’ve all heard I’ve had a couple of frustrating weeks with the putter but it’s back together and working again now.”
The second round of the Pentahotels Championship resumes today after which a cut to the leading 50 professionals and ties will be made for the final round. Spectator entry is free throughout and live scoring can be found at europrotour.com.