Gary Evans carded an opening round of 68 at the MCB Tour Championship – Madagascar to lead by one shot at the inaugural event.
Madagascar became the 46th country to host a Staysure Tour tournament since its inception in 1992 as the first stage of the three event final series MCB Tour Championship got under way at International Golf Club Du Rova.
England’s Evans rose to the top on day one after his three under par round saw him take a one stroke lead over Spain’s José Manuel Carriles, Stephen Dodd of Wales, Madagascan Jean Baptiste Ramarozatovo and France’s Jean Pierre Sallat.
Evans, who has recorded three top tens in his rookie season on the Staysure Tour, made a quick start with a birdie on the first hole and bounced back from his bogey on the second with three consecutive gains, including two on par threes, ahead of the turn.
A dropped shot on the tenth hole was quickly recovered on the par three 11th before he made back-to-back birdies on the par four 15th and par three 16th.
Even with a double bogey on his penultimate hole following a difficult lie in the bunker, Evans was more than happy to sign for a round of 68 and take the lead after round one.
“If you had offered me that score at the beginning of the day, I would have snapped your hand off,” Evans said. “I’m very happy with that and can’t complain at all.
“It is an extremely difficult golf course and it is hard to be aggressive, but I actually played really nicely, especially on the par threes. I hit a lot of good shots into the par threes which made life a lot easier. I played the rest of the course quite nicely, but I played those holes really well.
“I could’ve birdied all five of the par threes. On the fourth hole I hit a seven iron into five foot and missed the putt. All of my approaches were close and none of them were long putts.
“I drove the ball well and made a couple of small mistakes. It was a shame on 17 because I hit a perfect drive and then hit my wedge on-line with the flag and it landed on the front edge of the green and span back, as opposed to going forward, landing in a really bad lie in the bunker.
“You are going to have holes that will bite you because it’s the nature of the golf course. It’s all about patience and a clear mind and executing your game as best as you can.”
Hot on Evans’ heels are a group of four players at two under par, including local professional Ramarozatovo, who became the first Madagascan player to tee it up in a Staysure Tour event. The local star held the lead during the opening round following three birdies and an eagle, but a double bogey on the 17th saw him drop back to a share of second place.
The second round of the MCB Tour Championship – Madagascar gets under way at 08:00am local time with Evans teeing off at 10:45am.