England’s Jim Rhodes continued his quest to win his first European Seniors Tour title when he opened with a flawless six under par 66 to share second place after the first round of The Scotsman Scottish Seniors Open over the East course at Dalmahoy.
Rhodes, 54, the current British PGA Senior Club Pro champion, but winless in three and a half seasons on the Seniors circuit, recorded six birdies and no bogeys to end the round tied with Australia’s Terry Gale, one shot behind another Australian, Trevor Downing.
It also means that the former captain and chairman of the Midlands PGA has now gone his last 45 holes without dropping a single shot.
“I played well when I closed with rounds of 72 and 67 to finish tied seventh at last week’s PGA Seniors Championship at The Belfry and this was another steady round,” he said.
“I’ve finished second four times on the Seniors Tour so it’s about time I went one better.”
Downing, the club pro at the Freemantle public golf course in Western Australia is something of a surprise leader. Heading into Dalmahoy, his best finish this season was a tie for 22nd place at the De Vere Hotels Seniors Classic at Ferndown but he put his miserable run of form behind him with a round that started with a bogey but then included an eagle and seven birdies in his next 17 holes.
“That’s the best round I’ve ever had on the Seniors Tour,” he said.
“At the moment I’m 70th on the money list so I need a couple of good cheques if I’m going to escape having to go back to the Qualifying School.
“But I played well today and, if I can repeat that over the weekend, I can take a lot of the pressure off.”
Gale, a regular on the European Tour in the 1970s, and a man who represented his native Australia in the World Cup of Golf in 1983, raced to the turn in five under par 31 and then recorded one further birdie on the 12th to duplicate Rhodes’ 66
Further down the leaderboard it was a disappointing day for the defending champion, Neil Coles, and local hero, Bernard Gallacher, who both finished well off the pace on 71 and 72 respectively but David Huish, the sole double winner of this season’s Seniors circuit did considerably better, posting a three under par 69 that leaves him in good position to challenge over the weekend.
“”That was a solid round of golf,” said the professional and course manager from North Berwick, who earlier this year won both the Lawrence Batley tournament at Huddersfield and the Bad Ragaz Seniors Open in Switzerland.
“It might not look very good when you look at all the scores that are better than mine but I’m still delighted with it because it leaves me in with a good chance with two rounds to go.
Huish then launched into tribute to his colleagues on the Seniors Tour.
“The scoring out here this season has been incredible. This golf course is no push over but by the end of the day more than half the field will be standing at par or better. That’s good golf in anyone’s language.
“ What’s more, it is exactly the same week after week. I don’t think people believe me when I tell them how good the standard is. What they should do is come out and watch us and see what I mean.”
Elsewhere, the unluckiest man in this week’s starting line-up was undoubtedly America’s Art Russell whose decision to visit St Andrews yesterday (Thursday) turned into a personal nightmare when he slipped and broke his left leg while walking on the Old Course.
Russell, 51, from Texas, who had played in the 1980 Open Championship over the Old Course, had travelled to St Andrews in the hope of getting a game but when that proved to be impossible he chose to go for a walk instead.
“It was wet and I slipped on a mound right in front of the Old Course Hotel,” he said. “It was just one of those things but it means that I won’t be able to hit another shot for at least eight weeks.
Russell, a regular on the European Tour in the 1980s, received treatment at the St Andrews Memorial Hotel and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary before flying home to Houston.
His place was taken by Gordon Goldie, the club pro at Chingford Golf Range in Essex, who returned a three over par 75.