Ben Fuller stood out from the pack in the R&A Student Tour Series – Portugal when he emerged as the only player to score under par around the tough Troia Golf Resort layout.
The University of St Andrews student fashioned a two-under-par 70 and holds a two-shot lead over four players.
University of Exeter student Ben Quick shares second place on level par with Maynooth University team members Harry Gillivan, Jordan Boles and Ryan Griffin.
Fuller got off to a slow start with a one-over 37, but made four birdies over the back nine and one bogey to come back in 33.
Front nine jitters
“I was happy with one over on the front nine because it plays pretty tough and there’s always front nine jitters in the first round of the first tournament of the year,” Fuller said.
Fuller is enjoying his second tilt at university golf. The 22-year-old is doing a graduate degree in international business at the University of St Andrews after spending four years playing college golf for the University of Alabama.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience so far studying at St Andrews and playing on the golf team,” added Fuller, who also plays on the university basketball team. “I’ve played the Old Course probably 15-20 times already. It’s been awesome and a chance for me to grow as an individual and as a golfer.
Hitting the re-set button
“For me it’s almost like hitting the re-set button in terms of university golf because this series is a chance to play some really good courses after four years at Alabama. It’s a blessing to be here because it’s just so cool having this opportunity in Portugal.”
Fuller is making his third start in the Student Tour Series after playing Carton House (R&A Student Tour Series – Ireland) and Fairmont St Andrews (R&A Student Tour Series – Scotland).
“It’s definitely been an adjustment for me to learn how the ball reacts on hard and fast links courses, where to land chips, where to land wedges.
“This Troia course is a great test. It’s all about committing to your lines. Really good golf is going to get rewarded a lot more here just because of the tightness of the fairways and firmness of the greens.
A blessing and unbelievable opportunity
“For me, at my stage of my career, I just want to do everything that I can control. My expectations were, regardless of what happens, just have a positive attitude. At the end of the day, St Andrews has given me place to play and a chance to play here in Portugal. It’s a blessing and an unbelievable opportunity. I’m going to make the best of it and be thankful for where I am.”
The University of Stirling’s Lorna McClymont holds a three-shot lead in the women’s event after a one-over-par 73. She could have returned a level par score but missed a four-foot putt on the final hole after a deft chip from just short of the green.
“I’m fairly happy with that score,” McClymont said. “I made it hard for myself at times and was a bit up and down, but any time you shoot close to par around here you’ve done well.”
Running on confidence
The 21-year-old Milngavie Golf Club member arrived in Portugal feeling confident after a banner 2021 season that saw her win twice and post another eight top-10s. She supplemented consecutive victories in the R&A Student Tour Series – Ireland and BUCS Golf Tour – Fife Tournament with third-place finishes in the St Rule Trophy and English Women’s Amateur Stroke Play.
“Last year I leaned to be patient, that once you have a bad hole don’t think it’s all over,” she added. “I now know that if you have a bad hole then you’ve got to see it as an opportunity to have a good next hole. That was a big part of what I took from last season.”
The sports studies student had a chance to compete with good players last season, and says that has instilled confidence into her game.
She continued: “Winning in Ireland gave me a lot of confidence, but so did the St Rule Trophy and the English. I went up against some very good players and played well and that’s also helped my confidence. That was a big part of last season.”
Commendable pace of play
England’s Lucy Jamieson of the University of St Andrews lies in second place. She and McClymont played together in the opening pairing and set a commendable pace of three hours and 20 minutes.
Reigning Women’s Amateur champion Louise Duncan struggled to match the form that saw her run out a 12-shot winner here two years ago. She returned an 11-over-par 83 and is tied for sixth place.