Hampshire county cricketer turned golf professional Sean Irvine,
By Kent Gray
Spaniard Lucas Vacarisas has made a fast start to the MENA Tour’s new ‘Journey to Jordan’ on a blustery opening day at the first of the revived regional developmental circuit’s two qualifying schools.
An impressive seven-under 65 at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba has earned the world No.2004 a three-shot lead heading into Thursday’s second round of the 54-hole ‘Category A’ Q-School.
Englishman Tom Shabolt and the European Challenge Tour player’s amateur compatriot Curtis Knipes share second place overnight after 68s. Two other amateurs are on the front page of the leaderboard, England’s Jack Floydd and Lithuania’s Gediminas Markevicius both carding 70s for a share of sixth.
The leading 42 players plus ties will survive Thursday’s 36-hole cut from which the top-30 players (both professionals and amateurs) will earn cards for the 10-event season ‘Journey to Jordan’ which officially starts at Ayla Golf Club with a $US100,000, 72-hole event from Feb. 8-11.
Before then a second Q-School tournament will be held next week, also at the Aqaba resort. It’s a place every player involved will hope to become very familiar with this season; the $US100,000 Mena Tour Championship will also be hosted in Aqaba in late November.
Former Zimbabwean cricket international Sean Ervine is one of the players with work to do on the Thursday. The 36-year-old Englishman, who played at the 2003 World Cup and retired last year after 14 seasons of county cricket for Hampshire, opened with a 79 in his first pro round.
It left Irvine in a share of 52nd place in the 59-man field but only two shots outside of a big group in a tie for 43 and still very much in the hunt. Check out this video on the all-rounder’s own journey to Jordan and pro golf here:
A bogey-free front nine out in 32 set the tone for 30-year-old Vacarisa who later responded to a bogey on 12 by closing out with birdies on 13, 15 and 17.
Shabolt was also pleased with his first day’s work.
“It was great to get back in the swing of things for 2019 and put myself in a strong position to gain my MENA Tour card. The course and facilties here at Ayla Golf Club are brilliant and I’m excited to get out there tomorrow for round two.”