MAYO’S Jimmy Heggarty surprised himself in carding a level par 71 on the opening day of the British Seniors and in his first-ever competitive appearance on the famed Carnoustie course.
Heggarty ended the day the best of the five Irish and just four strokes behind the leading trio of Germany’s Bernhard Langer, England’s Carl Mason and American Jay Don Blake who signed for four-under par 68s.
The 54-year old Heggarty recorded three birdies in his round including a gem at the first after landing a 9-iron to just a foot.
“I’m really pleased with level par as it’s probably the longest course will play on the Seniors Tour as there is some par fours out there that are like par fives for me,” said Heggarty.
“So if someone had of handed me a 71 on the first tee I would have snapped their hand off. It’s the first time I’ve ever played Carnoustie so I am delighted.
“Aside from Birkdale, it’s the best championship course I have played and also the fairest.
“I turned pro at the end of 1975 so I missed out on playing the British Open here that year and by the time it came around again in 1999 I didn’t qualify.”
Heggarty ended his round in the group ahead of Cork’s Denis O’Sullivan who bogeyed the last in a two-over par 73.
O’Sullivan, who is competing in his sixth British Seniors but a first in three years, managed two birdies with his second sandwiched between bogeys at 16 and 18.
“It was disappointing to drop one at the last but while I started off pretty well, I played rubbish around the middle part of my round, so two over par is not too bad,” he said.
“This is the first time I’ve played Carnoustie and having watched Pádraig (Harrington) win here three years ago it was nice to finally get to tee-up here.”
Des Smyth carded a three-over par 74, Eamon Darcy a 75 and Christy O’Connor Jnr an 80 that included losing a ball off the tee at the 12th.
“I just can’t believe how many sixes I had on my card,” said O’Connor.
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