An opening round of 63 by Cormac Sharvin was enough to open up a one-shot cushion over a congested leaderboard in the inaugural English Championship.
The Northern Irishman dropped just two shots to reach eight-under par – on a day of perfect scoring conditions at Hanbury Manor Marriot Hotel and Country Club – to move one ahead of a group of six players.
The English trio of Jack Senior Laurie Canter and David Howell had all held the lead. Lancastrian Senior had gone out in 29, and got to eight-under before two late bogeys saw him drop back.
Canter and Howell – who holed his second shot on the 15th – also dropped shots on the 17th to fall back into the pack.
They ended round one of the third event of the UK Swing alongside Belgian Thomas Detry, Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent, and Australians Min Woo Lee and Jason Scrivener.
Sharvin said: “It was a nice round – played really well, Didn’t do too much wrong. Put it on the fairway, hit a lot of good shots and holed a few putts as well and it all added up to 63.
“Pretty happy to start well. A long way to go. But it’s always nice to shoot a good score on the first day and not put yourself out of it.
“I feel like last week I didn’t play too badly.” Cormac added: “I just struggled on the greens.
“I did a lot of work with Dean Robertson my old college coach, who has been caddying for me on the UK Swing.
“Did a lot of work on my putting process and it seemed to work. Hopefully it keeps going in that direction and see where it takes us,” said Sharvin.
English pair in hunt at Hanbury
CANTER and Howell sit one shot ahead of a group of nine players, including Belgian Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and rising Danish star Rasmus Højgaard.
The pair recorded rounds of 65 to sit at six-under after the European Tour returned to the Hertfordshire venue for the first time since 1999.
Canter, from Somerset, said: “I got off to a great start. I said to my caddie on the putting green I didn’t feel like I was getting to grips with the greens.
“Then on the first hole I holed a 60-footer right across it. Funny how that happened.
“Played really nicely. I’d have that swing back on 17, but I’m happy with today.
“I have tried to do things a bit differently because we have the opportunity to. I’ve always played with keeping the card hanging over my head.
“Someone I work with asked ‘how are you going to approach the game differently?’ It’s not rocket science.
“I’ve tried to do a couple of things. It’s early to say it’s working. I’ve only played nine rounds.
“It’s been more enjoyable – which is one thing I’ve taken out of it and I’m having fun out there. We’ll see how long that continues.”
Howell: I just needed a good start
TWO-time Ryder Cup winner Howell has struggled to replicate his big wins of 2006 after a long-term back condition hampered his career.
The Broome Manor GC member, from Swindon, has now been on tour for 25 years and has five wins including the HSBC Invitational in 2005, when he beat Tiger Woods in Shanghai.
Howell, whose last win came in the Alfred Dunhill Links seven years ago, said: “It’s been a long time since I’ve put a good first round on the board to be honest. It’s what I’ve been crying out for.
“I’ve played some reasonable golf in spurts since we’ve come back but haven’t got off to a great start.
“Today it happened so it was lovely. Nice to see my name somewhere near the top of the leaderboard, if not the top.
“There was a lovely family, the only gallery we would have, in their property behind the 15th green.
“Might be the only golf fans we play in front of for the entire UK Swing.
“They happened to be sat there on their own lawn when the ball went in. They were the give away that it was indeed an eagle.”
Howell was the clubhouse leader with the six others until Sharvin overtook them late in the afternoon.
Detry on a roll after English Open near miss
THOMAS Detry has been touted by many people as a winner in waiting on the European Tour and lost out to Florida-based Mancunian Sam Horsfield in last week’s English Open.
Detry, who made nine birdies in his 64, said: “It was really good. Built up a bit of momentum from last week I think.
“I got off to a really good start, with an eagle chance at the second, a birdie putt at the third.
Detry added: “I was just rolling – had four more birdies on the last four holes of the front nine.
“Then I kept it going. I made two little mistakes on 11 and 17 but I’m very pleased with the way I’m playing golf right now.
“You’ve just got to forget about it and this week is just another chance to put my name up there and have a chance on Sunday.
“That’s what I think I’ve done today and hopefully I can keep going the next few days. Last week was not easy.
“I played some really good golf but Sam Horsfield hit an amazing shot on 17 to birdie that hole and beat me by one, so we just move on.”
Min Woo Lee hopes he turned corner at Ware
ANOTHER young player touted for great things is former US Junior Amateur Champion Min Woo Lee.
He said: “I just striped it awesome. I hit it really good with my irons and my driver and rolled a few in.
“I think my longest putt was 25 feet, so I was pretty happy with that. It’s scoreable but you’ve also got to hit your shots.
“I hit it really awesome and close to the hole so it gave me a lot of opportunities.”
Lee, who sister is an LPGA winner, narrowly missed out on his European Tour card for 2020.
But he picked up the ISPS Handa Vic Open title in February to regain his playing privileges.
And he admitted the UK Swing had not started well for the 22-year-old before his arrival at Ware’s Hanbury Manor, in Hertforshire.
Lee said: “The results weren’t there for me. I missed the cut. I felt pretty down after those two and then you come out here and play really good.
“That’s golf. I worked hard in my break and on the weekends when I missed the cut. So it’s nice to come out here and shoot a good score.”
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