Friday 23 February 2018

First tour lead for Kavanagh

HAZEL KAVANAGH did a little cycling this week, taking in the sights around Rotterdam ... .but the Dubliner really got on her bike in yesterday's opening round of the ABN AMRO Open as she scooted into the lead at a Ladies European Tour event for the first time.

Kavanagh (37) played the back nine at Golfclub Broekpolder in four- under 32 and then had two birdies and two bogeys on the way home as a sparkling 68 put her one stroke clear of Laura Davies, Sophie Sandolo and 2005 champion Virginie Lagoutte-Clement of France.

While the majority of the field struggled to get to grips with the tricky, tree-lined course, Kavanagh sizzled in the blazing sun, posting her lowest round of the year.

"Definitely keeping it on the fairway was important and my putting was excellent," said Kavanagh, whose share of third place at last year's UNIQA Ladies Golf Open in Austria equalled the best ever performance by an Irishwoman on the Ladies European Tour.

Now in her ninth season on Tour, she revealed last season's dramatic improvement, when she finished 45th on the Money List, was due to a more relaxed attitude.

"I'm enjoying it a lot more, enjoying the travel, just trying to play and seeing what happens at the end rather than analysing and working on things I didn't need to," she said.

To blend in with the locals, Kavanagh did some sight-seeing on a bicycle this week, explaining: "We played an early practice round every day and then we went off because the people we're staying with have bikes."

Maiden Tour victory for Keenan in Sligo

IAN KEENAN of Royal Liverpool lifted the E12,000 first prize at Castle Dargan, Co Sligo, yesterday, with a final round 67 clinching his maiden EuroPro Tour victory by one stroke from Justin Evens of Wentworth.

Top Irish finishers were Limerick's Tim Rice, who closed with a four under 67, and Donegal's Brian McElhinney, who carded a 69, in a tie for fourth.

Brand Jnr revives memories of '86

Gordon Brand Jnr rekindled memories of his record breaking performance at La Moye Golf Club 24 years ago with a spectacular eagle as he opened a three stroke lead in the Matrix Jersey Senior Classic with a stunning first round 63.

The Scot set a European Tour record of four eagles in a round in the 1986 Jersey Open -- subsequently matched by Mikko Ilonen in the 2003 Open de España -- on his way to a course record 62 at La Moye in '86.

He notched another eagle when he holed his 193 yard 4-iron second shot on the par four fifth yesterday.

Des Smyth was Ireland's best performer, earning a tie for 39th after his one-over par 73.

Dunbar questions decision to play in fog

Defending St Andrews Links champion Alan Dunbar questioned the decision by organisers to start play in the opening round of the event despite fog blanketing the Jubilee Course.

Irishman Dunbar was out in the second group yesterday at 7.10am, but indicated he could see no more than around 150-yards due to a thick mist that had rolled in overnight from the North Sea.

Much of the Home of Golf was shrouded in fog, but it was the tightness of the Jubilee Course compared to the expanse of the nearby Old Course, that will host next month's British Open, that was Dunbar's main concern.

"The fog was pretty thick when we teed off and you couldn't see more than about 150-yards," said Dunbar.

However Tournament Director, John Grant believed the conditions early on did not warrant delaying the start of play.

Strangely, the foggy conditions didn't affect Dunbar's scoring with last month's Irish Amateur Open winner racing to four-under par after eight holes that included three birdies in succession from the sixth.

However, it was rather subdued Rathmore player who walked off with a one-under par 71 following a double bogey on the par four 16th after his three-iron tee shot came to rest on a bitumen path and as the pathway was in play, Dunbar was left with no option but play the ball where it lay.

"There's a couple of scratches on my 6-iron even though I managed to hit the ball off the path," said Dunbar.

However, there was no afternoon practice for the talented Ulster amateur who was off to a local St Andrews store for an ice pack for an injured right knee.

West Waterford's Seamus Power, the only other Irish player in the field, later matched Dunbar's one-under par 71.

Two players -- Welshman Ben Westgate and Peruvian Patricio Salem -- carded five-under-par 67s to head the event.

Irish Independent

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