HONG KONG, 4 Jan 2017, (HK Golfer News Wire) - Dominique Boulet rolled back the years to take the first-round lead at the FTLife HKPGA Championship after putting on a stylish display on the Fanling greens.
The 51-year-old, a two-time winner of the event whose last victory came in 2004, fired a three-under-par 67 over the New Course to hold a one-stroke advantage over defending champion Scott Barr and Hong Kong’s Wong Woon-man at the top of a crowded leader board.
Four-time champion Unho Park of Australia and three-time Asian Tour winner Anthony Kang of the United States lie in a share of fourth on one-under, while former Hong Kong Amateur champion Steven Lam returned a solid 71 in his first round as a professional.
“I was grinding out there but I enjoyed it – to have the nerves tingling and to come in with a good score is a nice feeling,” said Boulet, who spends more time behind a microphone commentating on the Asian Tour these days than he does playing competitively. “I didn’t hit it that solidly to be honest but I kept it under control and didn’t miss anything on the greens. I haven’t been playing that well but if I get it going I know how to hang on, which is something you learn after all those years on tour.”
Despite his strong start, the Hong Kong Golf Club member isn’t getting ahead of himself, however. “There’s a long way to go – I’d love to [win it again] but Scott [Barr], Unho [Park] and Anthony Kang] are the class players in this field. Can I beat those guys over the next 36 holes? I don’t think so – everything has to go right for me, but let’s see. I’m just enjoying having a nice score,” added Boulet.
Australian Barr, who claimed the title 12 months ago after four consecutive runner-up finishes, was another who was satisfied with his day’s work after carding three late birdies.
“I didn’t have my swing over the first few holes, but I played nicely on the back nine and was able to make a few putts, so that’s a good sign,” said the Singapore-based 44-year-old. “It’s nice to be able to come back and defend – it was great to win last year and get my year off to a nice start. I’m looking forward to the rest of the tournament and remaining in contention.”
Wong, who sits alongside Barr on two-under, had arguably the most remarkable round of anyone in the field. The burly 36-year-old holed out from the fairway twice in successive holes for back-to-back eagles at the fifth and sixth on his way to a 68. His weren’t the only fireworks, however, with fellow Hong Kong professional Wong Hoi-kin making a hole-in-one at the par-3 eighth in an otherwise lacklustre round of 80.
The championship’s second round will be held over the Eden Course at the Hong Kong Golf Club, with the all-important final round to be staged at the dramatic Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club.