SUSSEX’S Gary Evans carded an opening round of 68 at the MCB Tour Championship – Madagascar to lead by one shot as the Staysure Tour held a tournament on the Indian Ocean island for the first time in its 27-year history.
Evans rose to the top after his three-under par round saw him finish the day one shot ahead Spain’s José Manuel Carriles, Stephen Dodd, from Wales, Madagascan Jean Baptiste Ramarozatovo and France’s Jean Pierre Sallat.
Evans, who has recorded three top 10s in his rookie season on the Staysure Tour, made a quick start with a birdie on the first hole.
And the player, often regarded as the best Englishman never to have won on the European Tour, 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 10th 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,” said Evans, who represented Ascot’s Mill Ryde GC for many years as a European Tour player.
“I’m very happy with that and can’t complain at all,” added Evans, who shared the Brabazon Trophy – at the English Amateur Open Strokeplay Championship – back-to-back in 1990 and 1991.
“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,” said Evans, who grew up playing as a junior at Worthing GC.
“I could’ve birdied all five of the par threes. On the fourth hole I hit a seven-iron into five feet – 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.
“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, including local professional Ramarozatovo, who became the first Madagascan player to tee it up in a Staysure Tour event.
The island 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.
Madagascar became the 46th country to host a Staysure Tour tournament since its inception in 1992 as the first stage of the three-legged MCB Tour Championships got under way at International Golf Club Du Rova.
The second round of the MCB Tour Championship – Madagascar gets under way at 8am local time with Evans teeing off at 10:45am.
•For lives scoring in Madagascar click here.
Evans was tipped as the ‘next Faldo’
GARY Evans was tipped by many as the new Faldo when he burst on the amateur scene a decade after the Hertfordshire player became youngest-ever English Amateur Champion at 17, in 1975.
Evans won the Carris Trophy – the English U18 Strokeplay Championship in 1986 – and played in the 1991 Walker Cup for Great Britain and Ireland against the USA, at Portmarnock, with the American team containing Phil Mickelson.
Evans beat David Duval in the Saturday singles, and partnered Andrew Coltart and Jim Payne in the foursomes in a GB&I team that also contained Ireland’s future Ryder Cup players Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.
Evans spent several years coaching after quitting the European Tour back in 2006 after shoulder and back injuries, which came on top of a persistent wrist injury.
He appeared in a total of 353 tournaments between 1992 and 2006 earning nearly €3.4million finishing in the top three five times.