Tim Thelen (Getty Images)
America’s Tim Thelen birdied the last two holes to take a one shot lead after the first round of the inaugural European Tour Properties Senior Classic at Linna Golf, Finland.
The 56 year old carded seven birdies and recovered from two bogeys on the front nine, making four gains on the back nine for a five under par total.
After starting his round with a bogey, the Minnesotan quickly found his rhythm on the Finnish fairways.
“If you get me on a tree-lined golf course, I feel at home,” said Thelen. “These are the kind of golf courses I grew up on in Minnesota.
“I started on the tenth hole and hit a perfect drive, but my third shot went 30 yards over the green. I made two putts from 50 feet for a six but birdied the next hole, so that really started my round.”
Play was suspended shortly before 2pm local time due to the threat of lightning, but Thelen didn’t break stride after the stoppage.
“We had a bit of lunch during the delay and when we went back out there, I was on the 18th fairway with 132 yards to the pin. I hit it to 12 feet and then made birdie, and then I birdied the first hole, which was great.
“I hit the ball very solid and made some putts when I needed to. It was a good ball-striking round. I had a good partner in Peter Fowler, he shot 69 today and I felt as though I was trying to keep up with him.”
Trailing Thelen by just one shot are Spain’s Santiago Luna and Peter O’Malley of Australia. O’Malley finished his round with three consecutive birdies, making gains on four of the last six holes.
Luna made five birdies on the first 11 holes, bogeying the sixth, and then made par on his last seven holes for a first round of 68, four under par.
“I’m very happy,” said Luna. “I didn’t make many mistakes and played steady. I had a really good save on the 18th to make par. It’s a good start.”
Senior Major Champion Mark McNulty is one of five players making their regular Senior Tour debuts this week, and the 63 year old sits just two shots off the lead on three under par.
“This is my first regular Senior Tour event and I wanted to come to Finland and get a couple of events under my belt before the Senior Open Championship. I haven’t played much, but I’ve kept the swing in motion.”
McNulty is one of seven players in a share of fourth place. The former Ryder Cup quartet of David Gilford, Barry Lane, Ronan Rafferty and Costantino Rocca are in a share of 17th place on one under par.