Ahmedabad: Spanish journeyman, Agustin Domingo shot a fine six-under 66 to set a new course record on the opening day of the the third edition of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge 2013 at the Kensville Golf and Country club here today.
He took a one-shot lead over India's Shiv Kapur and Scotsman Andrew McArthur, who was wearing trainers instead of golf shoes after hurting himself. Three other Indians, Amardip Singh Malik, Om Prakash Chouhan and Vishal Singh had two-under 70 each in tied 12th place, while 2011 champion Gaganjeet Bhullar, Rashid Khan and Himmat Rai were at one-under 71 each in tied 20th place. Last year's runner-up Rahil Gangjee carded even par 72.
The drawcard of the tournament, Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, shot one-over 73.
Domingo, who had four top-10 finishes on the Challenge Tour last season, was progressing sedately over the front nine as he had first eight holes with one birdie and one bogey. He then exploded into action from the ninth, which he birdied. Turning in one-under, he birdied five times more without any lapses and came back with handsome dividends in the form of a six-under 66.
Kapur, who won his last start at the end of 2012, and had a top-10 here in 2012, had a flawless five-under 67 in the evening, while McArthur, whose lone Challenge Tour win came in 2008 in Spain, had as many as eight birdies but he also dropped three shots, one of them on the ninth, his closing hole.
Kapur was not too happy with his putting, but was pleased that he did not drop any shots. "I should have gone further up had I not missed some putts today. I struggled with my putting and the longest was six feet on the 17th. But I compensated it with my good driving and that made my day," said Kapur, who ended his seven-year long title drought by winning the Shubhkamna Champions Golf in December last year.
"The greens are smoother and the course is receptive than last year. If it remains same, the winning total can go to the 12 to 15-under, but if it gets firmer by the weekend, the scores will shoot up," Kapur said.
Kapur got his first birdie on par-five sixth hole from five feet but then had to wait till the 10th for his next one, where he tapped for a birdie. He hit the greenside bunker on 14th but did well to come up with a third birdie. He followed that with another on the 15th, and then went five-under with a six-footer on 17th.
Domingo, who held an European Tour card last season, may well have gone even lower than 66 but for a couple of missed putts. "I started well but didn't make many birdie putts. I chipped in from 20 metres at the second hole for birdie and then missed a short putt at the fifth. I missed a short putt at the fourth and missed a drive at the seventh and had to drop it and made bogey," the Spaniard said.
"Then I birdied the 10th, 12th and 13th and finished with birdies at the 17th and 18th. The last two were really good putts, five metres and seven metres. I'm really happy that I had a course record. I had one
as an amateur at a new course way back when I was young so this is the first time since then. I didn't expect to have such a good day," he added.
Five birdies in the opening six holes gave McArthur a flying start. McArthur, who finished 45th in the Challenge Tour Rankings last year, was on fire, holing a thirty footer at the 10th – his first – for birdie. He followed that up by rolling a 12 footer into the cup on the 12th before another 30 footer from the back fringe at the 13th dropped and two more birdies at the 14th and 15th holes meant he roared into an early lead.
That run was followed by a bogey at the 15th but three more birdies on the back nine helped the one-time Challenge Tour winner to a five-under score of 67 to take a one shot lead over compatriot Wallace Booth and Frenchman Victor Riu.