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Friday, 21 March 2003
Australia's Terry Gale and America's Jeff Van Wagenen returned fine four under par rounds of 68 to claim a one shot lead after the first round of the Digicel Jamaica Classic in association with Sony Ericsson at the Half Moon resort in Montego Bay.

Gale and Van Wagenen overcame temperatures soaring into the 90s to go into the second round with a one shot advantage over England's Nick Job and America's David Oakley.

Altogether, six Americans occupied places near to the top of the leaderboard. Alan Tapie and Bill Brask shared fifth place with Argentina's Horacio Carbonetti, England's David Creamer, Chile's Guillermo Encina, Scotland's John McTear, Ireland's Denis O'Sullivan and Spain's Manuel Pinero on 70, while Ray Carrasco and Wayne Wright were tied for fourteenth place alongside England's Keith MacDonald and Ireland's Joe McDermott one shot further behind.

Gale and Van Wagenen arrived in Jamaica for the first event on the 2003 European Seniors Tour season after experiencing vastly conflicting fortunes the previous year. Whereas Gale won once during 2002, at the GIN Monte Carlo Invitational, Van Wagenen, troubled by a persistent shoulder problem, dropped to 51st on the Order of Merit, winning just £22,334 in 18 starts.

"Finally, after 18 months, my shoulder problem seems to be behind me," said the American, whose round included a spectacular eagle on the 508-yard par-five 17th hole.

"For the whole of last season, I couldn't bring myself to hit through the ball in case I aggravated the shoulder problem and the result was that I didn't play well at all. Today, however was different. I hit the ball good and I putted well, too. I also got the breaks when I needed them. All round, it was a pretty good day."

Gale, who has won almost 20 times in Australasia and eight times in Japan, also produced some excellent golf after spending the winter relaxing with his family.

"I had a dumb double bogey on eight but, apart from that, I played pretty well. Last year, after winning in Monte Carlo it felt as if the monkey was off my back. I hadn't won for six years when I went there so, when I took the winner's cheque, it was like a weight being lifted off me. Now, I'm a lot more relaxed. I'm determined to enjoy my golf more this season."

Oakley and Job both played solid golf while posting their 69s but one of the most impressive rounds of the day came from Scotland's John McTear who went out in two over par 38 but then romped home in 32 to join the large group on 70.

Carbonetti, making his Seniors Tour debut after winning last season's Qualifying School in Portugal, was another who ended the day on that total.

The Argentinian opened with nine straight pars before scoring birdies at the 509-yard tenth and the 375-yard 11th. He dropped a shot at the treacherous 508-yard par-five 17th but then bounced straight back with another birdie on the 368-yard closing hole.

England’s Pete Cowen also produced some fine golf while posting a level par 72.

Cowen, who spends most of his time teaching Thomas Bjorn, Ian Woosnam and a host of other leading European Tour professionals, carded a total of four birdies in a splendid round that left him a mere three shots behind early tournament leader, Nick Job.

"It was what I would describe as a workmanlike round,“ said Cowen, a former Zambian Open champion who only got into this event on a special sponsors’ invitation.

"It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done. That’s about all I can expect given the fact that I hardly play at all nowadays.“

It was not such a good day for some of the Seniors Tour's stellar names. Christy O'Connor Jnr, suffering from a shoulder injury, could do no better than 74 while Scotland's Bernard Gallacher slumped to a 77. Australia's Ian Stanley, the Number One on the 2001 Order of Merit carded a eight over par 80 to prop up the field with another Scotsman, Mike Miller.

Local hope, Delroy Cambridge, winner of three Seniors Tour events in 2002, carded a disappointing 76.

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