America’s Jeff Van Wagenen made a determined bid to win his second title of the European Seniors Tour season when he tied the tournament record with a seven under par 65 during the first round of the Dan Technology Senior Tournament of Champions at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.
Van Wagenen, a former tap manufacturer from Pasadena, California, who won his first Seniors Tour title at the Tui Seniors Championship at Fleesensee, Germany, last month, fired eight birdies to open a two shot lead over defending champion, Eddie Polland and former Ryder Cup star, Peter Dawson, and it could easily have been one shot better had his tee shot to the 165-yard par-3 18th hole had not hit the flagstick and spun 20-feet away from the hole.
“I don’t suppose I can complain too much because I holed just about everything I stood up to,” said Van Wagenen. “I love the course but even I didn’t expect to make this sort of start.”
On a day of incredible scoring, just four men out of the elite field of 36 golfers failed to match par over the treacherous 6,581-yard Buckinghamshire course.
For a while Polland, who has still to win on this season’s Seniors Tour, looked as if he might share the lead with Van Wagenen but that was before a late bogey on the 332-yard 17th hole to drop into a tie with Dawson.
Two Australians, Ian Stanley and John Tolhurst, plus Spaniard, Manuel Ballesteros, finished one shot further back on 68 with Ross Mertherell, Malcolm Gregson, Nick Job, Maurice Bembridge, Tony Peterson, Alan Tapie, John Grace and Tommy Horton all finished tied for seventh place on 69.
Horton’s round leaves him in good shape to challenge for his second title on this season’s Seniors Tour and it was particularly impressive because he was in pain for 16 holes after damaging a tendon in a finger of his left hand while pulling his driver out of the bag on the third tee.
“It’s something I’ve done before and for a while I thought I’d have to retire,” he said.
“But, fortunately, I was able to get my hands on some painkillers and was just about able to get round.
“Under the circumstances, I have to be delighted with a 69,” he added.
Horton, headed into this week’s event, the penultimate tournament on this season’s European Seniors Tour, in third place on the money list.
The Englishman, who has won the John Jacobs Trophy, annually awarded to the Tour’s leading money winner for the last four seasons, has won £71,627 to date, £22,000 behind money leader, Australia’s Noel Ratcliffe and just over £17,000 less than America’s John Grace but can still make up enough ground if he wins the £20,000 first prize on offer this week or the £35,000 on offer for the winner of next week’s Abu Dhabi Seniors Tour Championship.
“It’s going to be tough but I haven’t given up hope,” he said.
Ratcliffe posted a one under par 71 in the first round at The Buckinghamshire.