Wednesday, 05 February 2014
Steve Cipa  (Getty Images)
Steve Cipa (Getty Images)
Friendships will be put aside in the final day of the European Senior Tour’s Qualifying School Final Stage as leader Steve Cipa battles it out with compatriot Andrew Murray in the final group, both spurred on by ambitious young up and coming professionals on their respective bags.

Cipa produced a stunning performance at Pestana Golf Resorts’s Pinta Course in the Algarve region of Portugal as he carded a bogey-free five under par 66, the best round of the week, to move to the top of the leaderboard on eight under par.

The 53 year old was one shot clear of second round leader Murray after a third day in which they traded blows at the top of the leaderboard while trading stories and jokes on the pristine fairways of the picturesque resort.

The caddies for both players have plenty common as they are both in the early stages of their own burgeoning pro careers. Cipa’s caddie, Katy McNicoll, plays on the Ladies European Tour’s developmental Access Series while Murray’s son Tom is chasing his dream on the Challenge Tour.

Cipa admitted that the friendly rivalry between the players on the course has been a welcome distraction, while the presence of the young caddies has also had a positive effect on the standard of golf.

“I putted nicely today and played really solid all three rounds,” said the Londoner. “My only objective this week was to be patient, keep it simple and smile.

“I have kept it in play off the tee, hit nice iron shots to the green and I have only had one bogey in three rounds so it’s all going nicely.

“I have to thank my caddie Katy - she’s been fantastic and helped me with everything - and also the Senior Tour physio Orla Buckley. I've had some problems with my back and she’s worked on it every day and it has really helped. We’re very fortunate to have her at our events.

“I've known Andrew all my career and he’s a great player. We both like football so we had some good chats, he’s a good friend of mine and we both wanted each other to do well.

“His son is a great lad too so between him and Katy, we both have great caddies. When you have a younger person, their outlook can be a little less cynical! But I really enjoyed it and hopefully it will be the same for tomorrow, I just need to keep it simple and enjoy it.”

Murray, who signed for a three under par round of 68 to move to seven under in outright second place, also thoroughly enjoyed the day and is looking forward to chasing down Cipa’s lead tomorrow.

“I played nicely again today but just hit a couple of poor shots out there,” said the former European Tour winner, who fired four birdies in the space of five holes on the back nine. 

“I hit it into the water at the 11th which was a bit out of character but then I hit two beautiful shots into the par five 12th for birdie and hit some terrific shots on the way in.

“Steve and I are big mates and we egged each other on a bit. He’s one of the true gents on tour and I’ve known him for 35 years so we had a bit of football banter, his West Ham are struggling and so are my Man United.

“He’s got a good caddie on the bag and knows Tom very well, so it was very convivial and we played some terrific stuff between us. 

“It’s a good lesson for the two caddies too. Tom was fantastic again and very positive. I’d like to give Steve a run for it tomorrow. We’ll see what happens and if we both keep playing like that it will be there for one of us.”

American Barry Conser and Englishman Gary Marks were four shots off second place on three under par while Mark Roper of England was in fifth place on his own.

There were five players tied on sixth spot and it will no doubt be an almighty battle for the six unconditional cards on offer. Those who finish in seventh to 14th position will receive conditional cards for the 2014 Senior Tour season.

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