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Friday, 19 March 2010
Texan John Grace beat the breeze to take the opening round lead in the £125,000 Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic with a three under par 69.

The former leading amateur, who turned professional at the age of 50, birdied the final two holes at the Tobago Plantations Beach & Golf Resort, in the opening event of the season on the European Seniors Tour.

Scotland’s John Chillas, runner-up in this event for the past two years, found himself in second place again after firing a 70, assisted by a hole in one on the demanding 164 yard par three 14th with a six iron.

“It was a tough day out there with the breeze blowing strong. Luckily I hit the ball real well and did not miss many greens,” said 55 year old Grace. The American won three times on the Seniors Tour in 2000 and finished second on the Order of Merit but since then he has not succeeded in revisiting the winner's podium.

"I just have not been able to shoot the low rounds but hopefully I will be able to get things going this year as I have been practicing very hard at home in Fort Worth,” added Grace, who was runner-up to Jerry Pate in the 1974 US Amateur Championship.

Grace hit a seven iron to 15 feet on the par three 17th and got up and down on the par five 18th after overshooting the green with a seven wood.

Chillas achieved the rare feat of holing out on the 14th, where the green rests next to the ocean.

"It was a bit of a shock to ace that hole as it’s not a pin you would go at. I got lucky. I started off badly and three putted two of the first three greens. I only made two birdies so the putter was not my favourite club today,” said Chillas.

Mason, winner of the Order of Merit last year and chasing his fourth consecutive win, was one of 12 players to shoot 71.

“I played quite well actually. I did not have much luck with the putter. It was tricky in that wind. There were a lot of good testing shots for my first tournament in a while,” said Mason.

Defending champion Terry Gale from Australia and Scotland’s Bernard Gallacher returned 75s.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1PIÑERO, ManuelESP18-1
2MALTMAN, CraigSCO183
3BEMBRIDGE, MauriceENG189
4GALLACHER, BernardSCO1810
5RATCLIFFE, NoelAUS1813
6MASON, CarlENG18-9
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