It takes something special to impress a grizzled veteran like Paul Lawrie, so Matt Wallace should certainly take a bow after doing just that. The Englishman produced a stunning effort before thunder and lightning forced an early end to play on day one in the Open de Portugal.
Wallace, a 27-year-old Londoner who won an unprecedented six times on the Alps Tour last season, signed for 10 birdies in a flawless 63 at Morgado Golf Resort to sit a shot ahead of German Sebastian Hiesele on a day when Grant Forrest, with a three-under 70, fared best among six Scots who finished their rounds.
“It was quite windy out there,” observed Lawrie, who is playing in his first 72-hole event since winning the Dimension Data Pro-Am in South Africa in mid-February, after signing for a one-under-par 72. “I thought the conditions were quite difficult, but 10-under-par from Matt Wallace this morning is incredible.”
Since securing his Challenge Tour card on the back of that spectacular run of success on one of the game’s third-tier circuits last year, Wallace has tied for third in Kenya and then finished 25th in Turkey. “Today was a continuation of a good start to the season,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it, and hopefully we can keep this going for the next three days.”
Taking up where he left off when tying for fifth in that same event in Turkey, Forrest delivered the latest proof that he’s feeling at home in the paid ranks in his rookie campaign. The 23-year-old signed for four birdies, with his sole blemish coming at the 10th as most players found the back nine testing in comparison to the outward half.
Lawrie described his round as “solid but unspectacular” as the 47-year-old outscored Ross Kellett (73), David Law (74), Duncan Stewart (74) and Craig Lee (74). “I played nicely, but I just didn’t hole many putts and I made a couple of mistakes, which didn’t help. But I’ve not played a lot of golf recently, so all in all it wasn’t too bad,” said the Aberdonian.
His oldest son, Craig, is the leading Scot heading into the final round of the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Great National Hotels Irish Masters, sitting joint seventh on four under par after opening rounds of 69 and 68 at Ballykisteen Golf & Country Club. Sean Lawrie, Craig’s cousin, is a shot behind in a share of 16th, the pair chasing home player Niall Turner after he moved into the lead on 11 under after tacking a 66 on to his opening 67.
In the amateur ranks, Dumfries & County player Liam Johnston was among just 12 players to break par in the first round of the Irish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Royal County Down. Johnston, winner of the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek earlier in the year, signed for a one-under 70 to sit joint eighth as Englishman Nicholas Poppleton set the pace with an impressive 67.