Rookie pro Rory Bourke stormed home with an eagle-birdie finish to share the first round lead of the Isuzu Queensland Open with Queenslander Gavin Flint and fellow Victorian Daniel Valente on four-under 68 at Brookwater.
Bourke’s stunning finish came in fading light as calm descended on Brookwater after difficult breezes had made afternoon play difficult.
His only previous wins as a professional have been in pro-ams at Yeppoon, three weeks ago, and in West Australia in June.
Flint and Valente had the best of the early conditions to share the one stroke lead over Queenslander Michael Wright, Michael Sim (WA), David Bransdon (Vic) and Matthew Miller (ACT).
The difficulty of Brookwater’s testing layout was evidenced when only 16 of 120 players broke par in the first round.
Flint, who turned professional in 2004 after a stellar amateur career, played consistently with six birdies and two bogeys.
The 34-year has something in common with US PGA champion Jason Day in that he suffers bouts of vertigo on the golf course.
“I’ve had vertigo on and off for the past three years but it stayed away today,’’ he said. “Hopefully that doesn’t change for the rest of the week.’’
Flint’s consistency was the keynote. He turned in 33 after starting on the 10th hole and held his game together on his homeward nine in perfect early conditions.
“I’m very happy. After getting away to a good start I held it together pretty well for the rest of the round,’’ he said.
Flint has campaigned in China for the past two years after losing his card on the Asian Tour.
As an amateur he was a Queensland state teammate of Steven Bowditch and Andrew Buckle. At one stage Flint concurrently held the Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and New Zealand amateur titles.
Valente, 30, who was playing his first tournament in five months after a fractured rib, made a sensational start off the 10th with four successive birdies. He notched another on the 17th to play his opening nine holes in 31.
He dropped shots on the second and fourth holes but made birdie on the ninth (his last) for a 68.
“It was a real hot start and I should have actually birdied the fifth as well,’’ he said. “I’m fresh after a long break and it was good to come back that well.
“The injury set me back. But it has given me an opportunity to work on my game and get ready for European Tour school later in the year.”
Sims, Bransdon and Miller had to battle tricky winds during their afternoon rounds of 69.
“The wind was all over the place. One numerous holes you would be standing on the tee and the wind would change direction,’’ said Sim. “I chipped and putted well which helped.’’
Sim rolled in five metre putts on the eighth and ninth holes and then from 15m from the fringe of the green on the 11th for birdie.
Bransdon agreed the breeze which heightened after the benign morning conditions was a significant challenge.
“It was flukey and changed direction,’’ said Bransdon. “But I enjoy the course. It’s up my alley because I’m a better ball striker than I am putter.’’
On 70 are Queenslander Taylor MacDonald, who played impressively in his debut round as a professional, Marcus Cain (Qld), Ed Stedman (NSW), and Michael Choi (Vic).
Leading amateur is Victorian Zach Murray who is in a group of players on 71 including Matthew Guyatt who strung together five straight birdies despite the discomfort of back pain. Guyatt left the course immediately to seek treatment in an endeavour to be fit for the second round.
68 G Flint (Qld), D Valente (Vic), Rory Bourke (Vic)
69 M Wright (Qld), M Sim (WA), D Bransdon (Vic), M Miller (ACT)
70 M Cain (Qld), T MacDonald (Qld), M Choi (Vic), E Stedman (NSW)
71 R Beaufils (Qld), T Wood (Vic), M Guyatt (Qld), M McArdle (SA), Z Murray am (Vic)