Like some of the pre-tournament favourites, Martin Doyle is part of the “young crowd” on the PGA Legends Tour.
However, where the Victorian differs from the likes of John Senden, Stephan Allan and David Bransdon is how much golf he has played of late which makes his position as first-round leader of the Nova Employment Australian PGA Seniors Championship something of a surprise, perhaps even for Doyle.
Recording an opening six-under 64 at Richmond Golf Club on Friday, Doyle was once a fixture on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia before putting the clubs away around 10 years ago.
Now working at the Sandhurst Club, both as a PGA professional and personal trainer, the 2003 Vic PGA winner had only played the odd professional event and occasional social golf before turning 50 in September and being convinced by friends to make a comeback.
“I’ve probably played as much this year as the rest of these guys have played in the last month,” Doyle said Friday.
Finishing 16th at Mollymook in October and 41st at the NSW Senior Open, Friday’s bogey-free round marked Doyle’s first score in the 60s in his senior Tour career, with Allan his nearest pursuer after fighting back to a 65 following a bogey-par-bogey start.
“This is only the third one (Legends Tour event) I’ve played, so it’s been a long time, so nice to actually finish bogey-free,” Doyle said.
“I three-putted 16. That was the only mistake today, but to walk off mistake-free almost is very satisfying.”
After walking away from competitive golf around 10 ago after starting a family, the 50-year-old’s seemingly biggest concern this week, aside from the impressive field, might be competitive rust.
“I am very very happy. I played great in practice all week and just kept hitting the right shots today and made a couple of mistakes, but holed some putts. It was great,” he said.
“I managed to escape, I holed a couple of nice ones for par around 14, 15 which was good.”
Also just a handful of starts into his over-50s career, Allan has been enjoying a return home from his base in Arizona, including a T3 at the recent NSW Senior Open, with the 2002 Australian Open champion proud of his grinding after starting on the back nine.
“I probably picked the wrong club on 10 and went in the bunker, then I hit a terrible iron on 12. So two par-3s early, it’s weird starting on a par-3,” Allan said.
“I made a good par putt on 13, otherwise I would have been out to three-over, and then I started to hit the ball a bit more solid and gave myself chances. Thankfully I was putting well today.”
Next in the chasing pack behind Allan is two-time Australian PGA Seniors runner-up Peter Lonard, who opened his account with a four-under 66 and “a couple of chip-ins”, while six players are tied on three-under, including 2022 PGA Professionals champion Scott Laycock and Legends Tour fixture Tim Elliot.
Nine players are a shot further in arrears at two-under, with NSW Senior Open winner Adam Henwood, 2020 champion Andre Stolz and Senden among that group hoping to find more birdies as temperatures heat up in Western Sydney, with highs in excess of 35 predicted for both Saturday and Sunday.
The weather another element that might play into the hands of some of senior golf’s new guys, including Doyle.
“I might have an advantage then, what is it 36° tomorrow? It is what it is, you drink plenty of water and keep trudging along.”
Catch the action of the second and final rounds on Saturday and Sunday, broadcast live, on Foxtel (Channel 503) and Kayo Sports.
Round 3: Saturday, 1pm-4pm AEDT
Round 4: Sunday, 11am-2pm AEDT
Full scores here: https://t.co/C4K2HSqvz4