Gordon Townhill, the last man into the field on Monday, emerged from the pack in joint first place with Italian Giuseppe Cali after the first round of The Mobile Cup on the European Seniors Tour at Collingtree Park in Northampton today.
The 54 year old, who combines tournament play with his full-time post as Director of Golf at Brough Golf Club in North Humberside, was surprised to learn by e mail on Monday lunchtime that withdrawals had ensured him a place in the line-up for the Pro-Am format event.
However Townhill took full advantage of his good fortune when he snapped up six birdies in a six under par 66 – his best return on the Seniors Tour after securing the eighth card at the 2004 Qualifying School - to share top billing with former European Tour regular, Cali.
He said: “I e mailed the Tour just to check on where I stood on the reserve list and was delighted to receive a reply shortly afterwards saying I was in. It’s nice to take advantage and not to drop a shot was a definite bonus.”
The highlight of Cali’s round was a superb eagle three at the fourth thanks to a 30 foot putt while Scotland’s Martin Gray eased into third place on his own after an error-free 67 thanks in the main to a tip from fellow Seniors Tour professional, Martin Foster.
Gray reaped the rewards of listening intently to some advice from fellow professional Martin Foster with a five birdie haul and outright third place.
Gray, playing in his 29th consecutive European Seniors Tour event since attaining full playing rights on the Tour, finished a sultry day one stroke behind joint leaders Gordon Townhill of England and Italian Giuseppe Cali.
However it was another Englishman, in the larger-than-life shape of Yorkshireman, Foster, which changed the course of the week for 53 year old Gray. He said: “I’ve spent the last two months going nowhere but I spoke to Martin Jersey last week and he insisted I should moved six inches further away from the ball. It triggered something in my mind because everything slid into place and I went from playing poorly to well.”
After five birdies and no dropped shots, Gray considered himself unlucky at the last when his third shot at the par five landed in the bottom of the cup and bounced back out to ten feet. He subsequently missed the putt and said ruefully: “It probably should have been an eagle, but overall I can’t complain with 67”.
Cork’s Denis O’Sullivan embarked on his quest for a seventh title on the European Seniors Tour at Collingtree Park with a solid one under par 71. O’Sullivan, who won the DGM Barbados Open in the first event of the 2005 season, attributed his steady play to a lesson from his coach Nick Bradley, at The Buckinghamshire Golf club earlier in the week.
He admitted: “I saw Nick before I won in Barbados, so I felt I should go for a refresher and see if it made a difference! After working with him, I felt I was getting through the ball better today.”
The highlight of O’Sullivan’s card was a brilliant drive and seven iron to eight feet for an eagle three at the ninth.