Irish trio set the pace


Irish golf's renaissance looks to have rubbed off on the older generation after three of the Emerald Isle's elder statesmen took control on the opening day of the PGA Super 60s tournament.

Bobby Browne (Laytown & Bettystown) Leonard Owens (Royal Dublin) and Dublin-based Hugh Jackson all made excellent starts to the tournament at De Vere Belton Woods in Lincolnshire, which pairs up PGA professionals and amateurs both aged 60 and over.

Leading the way was the resolute Browne and 12-handicap partner Tom Weir, who opened their bid for glory with a six-under-par 66.

It is a remarkable return for Browne, who was joint runner-up two years ago, but has since undergone a series of operations having being diagnosed with skin cancer.

Browne, who turns 70 later this month, was glad to just be competing let alone leading the £10,000 tournament by one shot.

The popular Irishman, who has had a distinguished career as a player, coach and administrator in the game, said: "They tried to put me in box two years ago and they've removed a lot of me.

"I couldn't play at all for a year as I was physically incapable so I'm delighted to be back here playing golf."

Former captain Weir found a rich vein of form with five nett birdies and nett eagle in their tally, which Browne quickly acknowledged.

"Tom contributed a number of times he and came in and counted when it was important and that's what made the score," he said.

"I played steady as we got to six-under. We made one or two serious mistakes but we enjoyed it."

Weir acknowledged Browne's performance, especially in light of his recent battles.

"I'm a past captain at the club and have worked closely with Bobby over the years. I was called in this year and it's an honour to be called in by him.

"He's playing down his commitment to be here after all he's gone through and to be playing the way he is, is marvellous and true testament to his spirit.

"Bobby is possibly being a little bit generous on my part. I have loved it but while I was out there I was tense and nervous and ensuring I did what I should be doing.

"I felt little bit under pressure being out in this company with professionals as I'm not used to that while this is my first time playing outside Ireland."

Hot on their tails is Owens and partner Anthony Hooey, who only met for the first time on the first tee but combined to post a five-under-par 67. They are joined in second place by Jackson and his long-standing partner Jimmy Clynch.

Ensuring it isn't an all Irish party is Scotsman Derek Craik, formerly PGA pro at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire, and his partner John Cannon. Owens, who led after the first round last year, explained how he came to be paired with South African-born Hooey, who is a member at Royal Ascot.

"Unfortunately my partner of last year got vertigo and so couldn't make it and my new partner is a friend of friend and he came up trumps," said Owens.

"We got off to a bad start bogeying the first and second but got a few pars and settled down after that. We found our games and my partner came in a little bit more than me but I finished well." Hooey said: "It was great opportunity to play with a pro but I was a little bit nervous and excited.

"I hit a few crummy shots to start with but Leonard is very relaxed and few words about my tempo got me going." Northern Irishman Jackson, admitted that Rory McIlroy's winning streak was a motivating factor for the entire Irish nation to perform. "We're all impressed with McIlroy and he's spurring us on" he said.

"Everyone is talking about him and he's helped the game enormously." Reflecting on his partnership with long-time partner Clynch, he added: "We've always player well here Jimmy and I. We were caught out by the weather a little today but we can do better."

Tournament debutant Brian Evans, director of golf at Pinheiros Altos in Portugal, is in a share fifth place with partner Brian Hill, who has played the event a number of times with different professionals after they carded a four-under-par 68.

They are joined on the mark by Peter Goldthorpe (Handley Wood) and amateur David Fox. Defending champions Graham Burrows and partner Robbie Hubbard are eight shots off the lead after a two-over-par 74. The tournament concludes tomorrow.

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