Gary Wolstenholme produced a mesmerising finish of four birdies on the spin to charge into a one stroke lead over David Merriman and Sam Torrance at the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open.
The Englishman, who is fast becoming a dominant force on the European Senior Tour having won once and registered two third place finishes in just eight appearances since joining the Tour, birdied home from the 15th hole of the demanding Legends Course at the stunning Constance Belle Mare Plage Resort to establish a one stroke advantage over Merriman and Torrance after round one.
“I am really pleased with that,” said Wolstenholme.”I actually felt that the round was getting away from me because I had made such a strong start and then got a little careless in the middle of the round. But just as I was thinking that I managed to refocus and finished with four birdies in a row which is a very good return considering the difficulty of this golf course.”
Wolstenholme turned professional earlier this year after a decorated amateur career during which he became England’s most capped player and he has taken to the professional game with aplomb.
“I am really looking forward to this new season, it is a very exciting time for me and my career. I look at the schedule for next year and then also hear of where we could be potentially playing and it is just a great opportunity for myself and the rest of the Senior Tour guys to play golf in some fantastic destinations.
“I am playing well but I don’t really set my expectations too high in respect of the year ahead – I am not really a goal-setter, I just hope to stay fit and well and try to enjoy this new adventure that I am on. If I do that then I am sure I can get a few good results along the way.”
Merriman will have pleased his growing fanbase on Facebook with a strong start to the week with five birdies and just the one dropped shot.
He said: “I missed a few short birdie putts early in the round and was starting to think that it was going to be one of those days and all of a sudden I started holing a few and picked up a few shots and I was off and running.
“It was satisfying to make the putts because I have been putting pretty well recently and have managed to get myself into that place where you believe that you can hole every putt you look at. You don’t get that too often when you are playing golf so to have that little extra layer of confidence really gives you an edge.”
Merriman drew inspiration from an article he read on the plane on his flight over to the honeymoon island of Mauritius.
“I coach myself which is great when things are going well but you do get moments when you can lose a few things in the swing and you just have to hit the range and pump the range balls until you find something.
“I actually took a little bit of inspiration from an article I was reading on the plane over here. It was a Tom Watson interview and there was a quote that really stuck in my mind. He said: ‘Sometimes you just have to stay on the range ‘till you find it...’ That really struck a chord with me and you just have to look at Tom’s swing to know that he still puts the work in – no matter who you are you still have to work at it if you want to compete.”
Torrance is also right in the hunt after a four under par 68, picking up four shots in his last five holes.
“The finish was very satisfying – to make those birdies coming home was a nice way to finish the round because I really played beautifully today,” said the Scot.
“I have been playing well for the last few tournaments now, and the game has been getting better and better over the last couple of months so it is definitely on the way back.
“Mauritius is a beautiful place and I always enjoy coming here. It might be a bit hot for golf at some points – it was extremely humid today – but you just have to look around to see the natural beauty of the place.”