Paul Dunne birdied the last in a level par 73 to lead the trio of Irish players on the opening day of the Trophee Hassan II in the Moroccan capital of Rabat.
Dunne is contesting the event for a fourth year running, including finishing second two years ago, and capped his round with two inward half birdies after slipping to two-over with bogeys at the second and third holes on the Royal Dar Es Salam layout.
England’s Jordan Smith heads the field thanks to a bogey-free seven-under par 66 while Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, returning to competition for a first time since birding three of his closing four holes to win the March 31stconcluding Hero Indian Open, stole the ‘shot-of-the-day’ honours with an albatross ‘2’ as his penultimate hole in a score of 68.
It’s the first albatross in Gallacher’s now 24-year pro career and he later singled out his 18-year old caddying son, Jack for handing him the right club.
“Golf is a very strange game,” said the Scot.
“Jack was confident on it saying there’s only one club, it’s just the ball flight, I had to flight it down a little bit.
“It was 240-yards but I was trying to land it 225-yards and let it run up the green and it just came out at the perfect trajectory.
“I got a good bounce and thought it was going to run up to about eight feet from the flag or something like that and it went in.
“It’s my first one as a pro but it’s just bizarre isn’t it? I’d turned away and just heard everybody shouting.
“It’s a nice feeling because it’s a tough hole. The drive made it.”
As for Dunne, the Greystones star turned his round around with birdies at the par-5 12th and the par-5 18th holes to return to the clubhouse sharing 31st place.
A shot further back with scores of 74 is 2012 champion, Michael Hoey and the Mt. Juliet attached Gavin Moynihan, who ended his round near 8pm local time.
Hoey was struggling at two-over par through 12 holes following back-to-back dropped shots at 11 and 12, but then won back the two shots when he eagled his 17th, the same par-5 eighth hole that Gallacher had earlier grabbed his albatross.
It got the Ballymoney pro back to level par but he then ended his round in doubling the par-3 ninth, his 18th.
Moynihan made his debut in the event a year ago but produced a horrible ‘Jumbo Jet’ start to his round in posting scores of 7, 4 and 7 that included tripling the par- 4 10th, the first hole of his round, before producing a ‘4’ on the 11thand then doubling the par-5 12th hole for a ‘7’.
But to his enormous credit, Moynihan dug deep to birdie his eighth, ninth, 10th and 13th holes to end his round at one-over and alongside Hoey in a share of 57th.