Ireland's Joe McDermott produced the biggest surprise of the day when he defeated former Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher, by 2 & 1 in the opening round of The Daily Telegraph/Sodexho Seniors Match Play Championship at the new Flamingos GC in southern Spain.
Gallacher, one of the tournament favourites, made a miserable start when he registered three sixes in his opening five holes and never recovered. He did reduce the deficit to one with birdies on the 323 yard a four eighth and the 484 par five 10th but then lost the initiative again when the Irishman birdied the 403 yard par four 12th. The duo swapped holes on the 15th and 16th before McDermott sealed the contest with a regulation par four on the 361 yard par four 17th.
"That's a great scalp for me," said the 62 year old Irishman who now lives in Port St Lucie, Florida. "It's always great to win at match play and it is even better when it is against someone with the sort of reputation that Bernard has got.
"Neither of us made a good start but I was pretty solid after the first couple of holes and did just enough to get through. Now I can look forward to another tough game with Nick Job. I know it won't be any easier."
It proved to be a much better day for Gallacher's compatriot, John Chillas, who produced one of the fastest wins of the day when he defeated Australia's Ian Stanley on the 14th hole.
The club pro at Glenbervie lost the 396 yard par four first hole to a par but got back to level with a birdie on the 180 yard par three third and was never behind again.
The match hinged on what happened on the fifth and the sixth. At the first of those Chillas won the hole with a fortuitous par five despite hitting his tee shot into water. At the sixth he hit what he described as a shanked seven iron from the tee but then holed a 50 foot putt for a birdie two to go two ahead. The Scot then won the ninth, tenth and eleventh with further birdies and finished the match off at the 14th where the two competitors halved the hole in birdie threes.
"I got caught in the middle of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre," said a rueful Stanley at the end.
"What happened on the sixth and seventh turned the match," said Chillas, who now goes on to play local favourite, Antonio Garrido in the second round. "Up until that point it was all very close. But that's match play golf for you. Someone has to win and someone has to lose."
Chillas was not the only competitor to win his opening match as far out as the 14th hole. Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge also defeated Australia's David Good 5 & 4 in what turned out to be an unexpectedly one-sided contest and then Scotland's Miller Miller fired six birdies in 14 holes on his way to defeating England's Keith MacDonald by the same margin.
In stark contrast, tournament favourite, Denis Durnian, was made to battle all the way to the 18th before overcoming a spirited challenge from Scotland's John McTear.
A total of six holes changed hands before McTear, the former club professional at Cowglen, near Glasgow, won the tenth to get back to one down. The duo then halved the next five holes in par before Durnian won the 354 yard par four 16th with a par. McTear prolonged the match with a winning par down the 361 yard 17th but could do nothing to combat his opponent's regular par four at the last.
The first round turned out to be something of a disaster for defending champion, Jim Rhodes, who played 24 holes before losing to compatriot, Ian Mosey.
Rhodes, the former club professional at South Staffs, was two down after 14 holes but then got back to level with a birdie on the 354 yard par four 16th and the 361 yard par four 17th. Thereafter, the contest turned into something of a war of attrition. The next six holes were halved in pars before it ended when Rhodes drove into a bunker on the sixth extra hole and then dumped his next into the water that guards the dogleg.
Mosey's win means that his record is now a remarkable 17-0 in extra time.
"It's incredible," he said. "Since I turned professional in the early 1970s I have gone into extra time 17 times in play-offs, tournament qualifying, things like that, and have never lost. It's a tough way to do it, though. Jim and I both hit the ball pretty well today, but I just managed to scrape through. Let's hope that's the toughest game I face this week.”
In the other first round matches, 2000 champion Priscillo Diniz defeated America’s Jerry Bruner by one hole and Ireland’s Eddie Polland overcame Canada’s John Irwin by the same margin. Australia’s Noel Ratcliffe went 18 holes before beating Italy’s Alberto Croce, Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan defeated New Zealand’s Simon Owen 2 & 1 and Englishmen, Tommy Horton and Peter Townsend inflicted 4 & 3 defeats on American’s Ray Carrasco and Gary Wintz. Elsewhere, sponsors invitee, Brian Evans, the club professional at Pinheiros Altos in Portugal, caused something of a surprise when he won 4 & 3 against former Ryder Cup star, Maurice Bembridge, Nick Job beat David Creamer by one hole, and John Morgan outlasted compatriot Malcolm Gregson, albeit only after 22 holes.
In the second round Chillas plays Garrido, Diniz comes up against Polland, Durnian plays Townsend, Ratcliffe meets O’Sullivan, Horton faces Evans, Mosey is pitted against Cambridge, Morgan is up against Miller and McDermott faces Job.