Dawson finally finds form in Morocco to lead Lalla Aïcha Challenge after first round

Portmarnock’s Robin Dawson playing in the first round of the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour
Portmarnock’s Robin Dawson is going for broke as the European Challenge Tour nears its climax after leading the first round of the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour at Royal Dar Es Salam, in Morocco. Picture by EUROPEAN TOUR

IRELAND’S Robin Dawson raced to the top of the leaderboard at the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour in what could be a pivotal week for the European Challenge Tour rookie.

The 23-year-old posted eight birdies and 10 pars in a flawless eight-under par opening round of 64 on the Blue Course, at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, to sit one shot clear of Lancashire’s Jack Senior.

Dawson, who currently occupies 88th position on the Road to Mallorca rankings, is looking to surge up the standings with a strong finish this week.

Only the top 53 players in the order of merit following the Moroccan event are confirmed a place in the field for the penultimate event of the season, the Foshan Open, in China.

With four events remaining before the top 45 players battle it out for the all-important 15 European Tour berths up for grabs at the Challenge Tour Grand Final, the former Irish amateur international, who played in the 2018 Eisenhower Trophy, knows a strong result is required this week.

Dawson, who lost to Ernie Els’ nephew Jovan Rebula in the final of the 2018 Amateur Championship, duly delivered on day one in Morocco.

The Tramore man posted six birdies over his opening eight holes to propel himself into the lead, before picking up two more shots from the turn.

“I’m outside the top 70 so I know that I’ve got to play well in the next couple of weeks to give myself a chance,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m just going to go out there and give it 100 per cent.”

The Portmarnock player recorded an impressive round of 64 in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the European Tour as he attained a career-best top 30 finish in the Rolex Series event.

But Dawson finds himself in contention for the first time in his short career following a mixed debut season.

“I’m really pleased,” Dawson said. “It was just nice carefree golf out there.

“My form has been rubbish, if I’m honest, but golf is a funny game, said Dawson who has made the cut in just six of his 18 starts on the European Challenge Tour in 2019.

“I feel like I’ve been playing okay and then I shoot something that leaves me scratching my head, wondering what is going on.

“I’m really enjoying playing this week. This is one of the best courses we play all year, the greens were perfect and tee to green you’ve got to be accurate if you’re going to score well.

“I can’t fault the course at all, it’s been really fun,” said Dawson.

Swede Oscar Lengden sits two shots behind Dawson’s lead, on six-under, as he goes in search of his third Challenge Tour title in as many years, with Surrey-based Welshman David Boote, Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson and Spaniard Santiago Tarrio Ben a shot further back.

The second round of the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour begins at 8am local time on Friday, with Dawson getting his second round under way at 2pm.

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