McGovern one off the lead at Senior Tour Q-School
 Chris Hunsucker. Getty Images

Chris Hunsucker. Getty Images

Headfort’s Brendan McGovern is just a shot off the lead after the first round of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School’s Final Stage in Portugal.

The 50-year old fired a four under 67 at  Pestana Golf Resort’s Vale da Pinta course in the race for just five full cards after 72 holes.

American Chris Hunsucker led the way on day one as he made five birdies in an excellent bogey-free 66 having made it through First Stage of Qualifying School last week on countback.

The 50 year old – who stopped playing the game for over a decade as he raised his children – was very pleased with how he had started his bid to win one of the five Senior Tour cards on offer this week.

“I love it here in Portgual, it’s a beautiful place,” Hunsucker said. “It’s my first time over here, first time at Qualifying School, so I’m really enjoying it so far.

“I played really solid. I hit 16 greens and two fringes and made five birdies, no bogeys, so I played well – I struck the ball really solid so I’m very pleased.

“Last week I was hitting the ball well also, on the first day I hit 15 greens but struggled with my putting and shot three over. The second day I played a lot better, but I struggled a little bit.

“I stopped playing competitive golf in around 2000 and I really didn’t play for ten or 11 years. I have a middle son who is in love with the game so I started playing and practising more as I approached 50 and thought I may as well play a few tournaments. Lincoln Heritage Insurance sponsored me and allowed me to start playing competitive golf again, and here I am.

“I never fell out of love with the game, I was starting a family and my kids were young so I was taking care of them – I was teaching a little golf here and there but basically just spending time with the family.

“I played maybe two rounds a year for ten years, so it was tough to shake off the rust – and the weight! I’ve still got a way to go there I think.

“It’s always nice to get off to a good start but it’s four days, and I’ve been there plenty of times to know there’s still a long way to go, but it’s pleasing to be there just now.”

McGovern bogeyed the fifth but he birdied the sixth and eighth to turn in 33, then eagled the par-five 12th and added a birdie two at the 15th in a strong opening effort.

Another American Clark Dennis sits in a tie for third after an opening 68.

Scores after round  1:

66 C Hunsucker (USA), 

67 B McGovern (Irl), 

68 C Dennis (USA), M Atlevi (Swe), 

69 A Sherborne (Eng), D Westermark (Swe), B Cameron (Eng), J Murphy (Eng), G Marks (Eng), G Banister (Aus), B Conser (USA), 

70 Y Nilsson (Swe), M Wiggett (Eng), C Swart (RSA), 

71 S McNally (Eng), A Fernandez (Chi), K Tarling (Can), K Hutton (Sco), J Harrison (Eng), 

72 J Carter (USA), P Scott (Eng), F Lamare (Fra), N Sweet (Eng), S Bennett (Eng), A Murray (Eng), G Ryall (Eng), J Buendia (Esp), W Grant (Eng), B Smith (am) (Eng), M Haddock (am) (Eng), 

73 J Sanchez (Mex), J Lovell (Eng), M Wharton (Eng), M Bianco (Ita), M Krantz (Swe), G Wolstenholme (Eng), J Romero (Esp), 

74 R Sabarros (Fra), M Deboub (Alg), P Jackson (am) (Eng), 

75 T Lawrence (Eng), K Smith (Can), J Sallat (Fra), J Klubb (Swe), J Carriles (Esp), S Henderson (am) (Sco), 

76 R Tlhabanyane (RSA), E Costa (Por), N Mitchell (Eng), D Edlund (Swe), G Davies (Wal), F Grosset-Grange (Fra), S McAllister (Sco), 

77 E Kocs (USA), G Joyner (Aus), 

79 K Tenmark (Swe), 

80 D Ray (Eng), P Scarrett (am) (Eng), 

81 N Gassiebayle (am) (Arg), 

85 B Loome (Eng)