Ireland’s Des Smyth saw his son Greg win €9.42 million in a recent Irish National Lottery and now he has a great chance to claim a €42,931 windfall of his own after carding a four under par 68 to open a one shot lead after the first round of Scottish Seniors Open over the East course at the Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club near Edinburgh.
The 55 year old from Drogheda in Co. Louth produced three birdies and a sensational eagle three on the 500-yard tenth to go into the second round one shot ahead of Spain’s Domingo Hospital and two in front on an international quintet comprising Scotland’s Bill Longmuir, Chile’s Angel Fernandez, Italy’s Costantino Rocca and America’s Jerry Bruner and Bob Boyd.
Local favourite, Sam Torrance, opened his account with a battling one under par 71 to share eighth place with Simon Owen, Jim Lapsley, Kevin Spurgeon, Peter Mitchell and 2007 European Seniors Tour Number One Carl Mason but it was a different story for 2007 Scottish Seniors Open champion, José Rivero, who struggled to a two over par 74 to finish back in a share of 29th place.
“Greg has been hogging most of the headlines so it would be nice to make a few of my own,” said Smyth, who has recently committed himself to the European Seniors Tour after spending six years on the Champions Tour in America where he won twice in 2005, capturing the SBS Classic and Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf
“America is no place to be when you’re playing poorly and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for most of the season. But I’ve been working hard on flattening my swing and today was an awful lot better.
“I started fast with birdies on the third and the fourth but the highlight of the day was a 238 yards ten wood to within four feet of the pin on the tenth.
“That’s as good a shot as I can hit and it’s certainly one of the best I’ve had for a while.”
Smyth’s nearest challenger is 50 year old Spaniard, Domingo Hospital, who once worked as a commercial pilot on the Costa del Sol while struggling to get onto the European Tour back in the 1980s. He finally made it when he became the Tour’s oldest rookie at the age of 34 and this year in his maiden season on the Seniors Tour he has already claimed a second place behind Ian Woosnam at the Parkridge Polish Seniors Championship and a tie for third at the Azores Seniors Tour.
“It’s great to be out here on the Seniors Tour and to meet a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while,” said the Spaniard who started brightly with birdies at the first, fifth, sixth and eighth but lost his chance to share the lead when he dropped a shot at the last.
“I had to work very hard to pay the bills before I made it to the European Tour so I know how lucky I am to be here.”
There are a dozen Scots in this week’s field at Dalmahoy and after the opening 18 holes the leader among them is Longmuir who holds a one shot lead over Torrance after a fine 70 left him in a share of third place.
The Kent-based Scot birdied both the third and seventh but like Smyth produced his best shot of the day on the long tenth where he pitched in from 55-yards to record a precious eagle.
“That was the shot that got me going,” said Longmuir, who won this year’s DGM Barbados Open at Royal Westmoreland.
“I’ve played well for most of the season but I can’t put my finger on why I’ve been finishing third one week and 30th the next.
“If I can work that out there’s no reason why I can’t challenge over the weekend,” he added.
Torrance pronounced himself content with his 71 but admitted it could have been a little bit better but for a bogey five at the last where he missed the green and then failed to get up and down.
“I played well but I’m disappointed that I dropped a shot at the last,” said the former Ryder Cup Captain who has won several time at Dalmahoy most recently at this championship in 2006.
“When you do that it always leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth,” he added.
Meanwhile Italy’s Costantino Rocca gave further evidence that he might also be the man to beat over the weekend. Here started last year’s Scottish Seniors Open with a five under 67 to lead the field but then dropped down into a share of fifth place after succumbing to a hip injury.
Rocca was one over par for the day after six holes but then claimed birdies at the eighth, 13th and 14th before finishing his round with a bogey on the 16th and a birdie at the 17th where he hit a towering four iron into four feet.
“I played well and I’m certainly a lot more comfortable than I was last year. That was agony. I could hardly walk but this year I’m fit so I’d like to think I can do a little bit better.”