An immaculate round of 64 – the lowest of his burgeoning professional career – saw England’s Matt Haines end day one of the Roma Golf Open 2010 presented by REZZA on top of the leaderboard.
Haines, who burst onto the scene earlier in the season with a runner-up finish at the dual ranking SAINT OMER Open presented by NEUFLIZE OBC on only his fifth professional outing, notched seven birdies in a flawless round of golf at Olgiata GC, on the outskirts of the Italian capital Rome, to lead by one stroke from home favourite Lorenzo Magini.
The talented 20 year old from Kent has, by his own admission, rather gone off the boil in recent weeks following such a stellar start to his debut Challenge Tour campaign, with the low point coming at the recent M2M Russian Challenge Cup, where he was disqualified on the third day – whilst in tenth place – after missing the bus to the course and failing to arrive on the tee in time.
But after a pep talk from his parents and management team, Haines hit the practice range like a man possessed and has reaped the rewards of his endeavours with a round which puts him in contention to climb back into the all-important top 20 of the Challenge Tour Rankings. Thus, a season which was in danger of ending in disappointment is now alive with possibilities once again.
Haines, currently 23rd in the Rankings, said: “I drove the ball well and left myself with lots of approach shots from the 140-yard range, which I felt very comfortable over. That meant I made a lot of birdie chances, and because I was putting well, I managed to take a fair few of them. It’s quite tight in places out there, but even if you miss the fairways you can usually work your ball around the trees, and still find the greens. The greens are also rolling very true, so if you hit your putts on the right line, more often than not they’ll go in. So I’m just pleased to be back and playing well again, because my results haven’t been the best lately.
“Obviously I learned from what happened in Russia, and I certainly won’t be making the same mistake again. I’m just grateful people have stuck by me and kept believing in me. My manager Rocky [Hambric] obviously had a few words with me, which I took on board. It was good advice and I have a lot to thank him for, not least because he’s helped to get me invites for this week and next. So I’ve put it behind me, and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. I need three good tournaments to get my card for next year, and I’ve made a good start here this week. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.”
Magini, making his first appearance on the Challenge Tour, upstaged a number of his supposed superiors by carding six birdies and an eagle in a round of 65. The highlight of his day came at the first hole, where he holed his wedge from 100 yards for a two.
Magini, who plays most of his golf on the Satellite Alps Tour, said: “I missed a little putts today so my round could’ve been even better, but overall I’m happy and I can’t complain. I live very close to the course so I know it very well, but 65 is my lowest score here. This is my first Challenge Tour event and I didn’t expect to play so well, but it’s only the first day. If I shoot another 65 tomorrow, maybe then I’ll start to get a little excited.”
Amongst the group of seven players on five under par is England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who has made quite an impression since turning professional three months ago. The teenager from Merseyside, who closed his amateur career with two victories and a runner up finish, has climbed to 54th in the Rankings after just three appearances since joining the professional ranks.
But having as yet failed to secure a place in the field for next week’s Egyptian Open presented by SODIC, the final event before the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, the rising star will need another strong showing this week if he is to avoid a visit to the Qualifying School.
Fleetwood – who along with his friend and compatriot Sam Hutsby made a mad dash to Rome airport on the eve of the tournament to retrieve his clubs, which had gone missing in transit from France – said: “It was nice to have my own clubs today – it was a relief when they turned up last night. But after the way I played some holes today, I might’ve been better off if they hadn’t arrived! I didn’t actually play very well at all, to be honest, but I did putt very well, which got me out of jail.
“For example on the ninth hole, which was my last, I think I hit my drive all of about 100 yards! Then I hit an eight iron out of the trees and a six iron to 25 feet, and holed the putt. So it was an unconventional birdie, to say the least! I scrambled very well, without striking it very well. So if I play as well as I can tomorrow, hopefully I should shoot even lower. I need to play well to finish in the top ten and get into Egypt next week, because at the moment I’m not in. So that’s a pretty good incentive for me to go low.”
Fleetwood was joined in a share of third place by his compatriots Stuart Davis and Andrew Marshall, Argentina’s Pablo Del Grosso, Denmark’s Andreas Hartø, Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera and Scotland’s George Murray.
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