Former Walker Cup player Richard McEvoy of England and Italy’s Michele Reale share the lead after the first round of the Panasonic Panama Open 2004 after opening five under par 67s at Coronado Golf Resort.
In this the second of three jointly sanctioned events between the Tour de las Americas and the European Challenge Tour, McEvoy displayed a distinct liking for the first week in December in foreign climes.
The 25 year old Englishman, who won the Qualifying School Finals in 2003 only to lose his card in the season just ended, led after the first and second rounds of the Omega Hong Kong Open exactly a year ago this week.
Although he eventually finished tied 15th, McEvoy showed great promise which he was not able to fulfill during the 2004 season. However the visit to Panama seemed to re-awaken his competitive instinct as he shared the lead with Reale, winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings in 1997.
Last week’s winner of the 47th Abierto Mexicano de Golf, Rafael Gomez of Argentina, sits alone in second at four under par, maintaining his fine form from Mexico City.
James Heath, the young Englishman who took fourth place in Mexico on his professional debut, withdrew from the event due to flu.
Reale said: “I had an easy round although the golf course is very difficult. I had five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. I putted very well and holed a long putt for the eagle, so it was a great day for me.”
Reale played later in the day, when the wind had abated somewhat, and agreed that had helped. “It was very strong on the front nine, but it was definitely easier later on for me.”
McEvoy played early and caught the full blast of the tricky wind but the secret to his day, he said, was his opening hole.
“I hit two great shots and although I missed the six footer for birdie I immediately felt very good about the day.”
He opening his spurt with, “a great six iron and a ten footer for birdie” at the par three 12th [his 3rd] another birdie at the par five 13th, then chipped-in for a third birdie at the 15th.
“That was nice, I haven’t had a chip-in for some time,” he said. McEvoy added birdies at 17th and 1st [his tenth] and salvaged an important par at the fourth:
“I hit it in the trees but managed to get up and down from fifty years, which was good as it kept the round going. I hit a couple of poor shots on the way in but got away with them really. Although I should have birdied the par-five 9th downwind I didn’t but really, I took advantage of almost every chance I had.”
Marco Ruiz of Paraguay, who finished 76th in his first season on the European Challenge Tour after playing 15 events, has a 30th birthday promise.
After celebrating his big day, he said: “Last year was great, a chance to play good courses against good players. That has helped me lift my own game considerably and my objective is to use these first events here in Latin America to build my standings and get into the 2006 European Tour by my rankings.
“Today my short game was really sharp, my long game so-so, but not bad.” Ruiz raced out in 31 to tie the lead but admitted: “I made a couple of errors on the back nine that cost me, but the important thing is to be in touch with the lead after the first day.”