American Dick Mast and England’s Paul Wesselingh made a flying start to the new Senior Tour season as the top two players from the Qualifying School shared the lead with England’s David J Russell at the end of the opening day of the Mallorca Open Senior.
The leading trio shot three under par rounds of 68 over the José María Olazábal-designed Pula Golf Club to lie one stroke ahead of nine players including former Ryder Cup Captains Mark James, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam, Senior Tour debutant Philip Walton and last year’s Number One, Peter Fowler.
The presence of the two Englishmen at the top of the leaderboard will certainly give Kedleston Park Golf Club, near Derby, plenty to cheer about as both players have been associated with the club - Wesselingh taking over from Russell as the head professional in 2001.
Wesselingh, embarking on a new tournament schedule after a successful career as a club professional, is playing his first event since finishing second behind Mast at the Senior Tour Qualifying School in January.
All the action came on his front nine with two early birdies preceding a bogey on the sixth before chipping in for an eagle three on the ninth - the only eagle of the opening day – for an outward half of 33. Nine successive pars followed for his 68.
“I was a bit shaky as this is my first event on the Senior Tour, but I played nicely and had a number of birdie chances,” he said.
Russell, whose sole European Senior Tour title to date came in 2010, reached four under par through ten holes before bogeying the 14th while Mast, who finished third in the 2006 Senior Open Championship at Turnberry behind Loren Roberts, bogeyed his penultimate hole to also drop back to three under par.
Both players had their sons caddying for them, the younger members of the family good golfers in their own right with Chris Russell a professional playing on the Tartan Tour in Scotland and Jacob Mast a useful golfer as junior at Liberty University in Virginia.
“This is my first year here so a nice way to start,” said Mast. “I missed a few greens as everybody did but played great.”
Russell had a couple of good saves coming home, notably saving par on the 16th after finding water and then up and down from sand on the 17th but overall was pleased with his round. “It’s a difficult and demanding course in very good condition,” he said. “I played very nicely after six months off.”
The Mallorca Open Senior, the first event of the 2012 European Senior Tour season, also heralded the debut for Walton, hero of the 1995 Ryder Cup where he secured victory at Oak Hill, and the Irishman will be pleased with his first outing after collecting three birdies with just a solitary dropped shot.
Australian Fowler, winner of the John Jacobs Trophy as Senior Tour Number One last year, began his defence of the title in style by reaching four under par through 11 holes before two bogeys coming home as he carded an opening 68.