STEPHEN GALLACHER flirted with winning a $200,000 lorry in the opening round of the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban.
But the Lothians star, pictured below, has his eye on a different hole-in-one prize in the European Tour’s ‘Tournament of Champions’.
Of the five prizes up for grabs at Durban Country Club, Gallacher wouldn’t mind winning the $70,000 digger for an ace at the 15th. “I know someone at home that would love me to win that,” he said, revealing it was Kingsfield Golf Centre owner Robert Arkley.
“Rab would be in his element in a digger like that and it would come in handy for the new short course we are aiming to build at Kingsfield.”
It was a prize that the only other Scot in this week’s field came close to winning in the opening round.
Colin Montgomerie’s 7-iron finished a foot behind the hole, denying him the tenth ace of his European Tour career.
“I’m gutted I didn’t win the digger,” admitted the former Ryder Cup captain, though he revealed it would have led to him asking the tournament sponsor for the equivalent monetary value.
“I’d have immediately asked Volvo how much it was worth and then I would split the cash with my caddie,” he added.
“I’ve always said that if I win a car or something for a hole-in-one it would be half mine and half his. My last hole-in-one was at the eighth hole at the BMW International Open in Munich in 2009. That was my ninth hole-in-one and that is a record on Tour.”
Gallacher had a good go at winning the aforementioned lorry up for grabs at the last – a short par-4 – in his opening 73.
“I must have been close because it was right behind the flag after running just off the back of the green,” he reflected.
The Dubai Desert Classic champion opened his 2014 campaign with a brace of bogeys in the company of Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Gallacher then picked up three birdies in the next six holes to be out in 35, one-under-par. But, after starting for home with a bogey-6, he then ran up a triple-bogey 7 at the 11th.
“It was the one bad shot, really, that I hit all day,” declared the 39-year-old of a tee shot that was lost.
He wasn’t alone, though, in suffering one costly hole and, after covering the final seven holes in two-under to sit joint-22nd in the 36-man field, Gallacher was pleased with his opening effort of 2014. “There were a lot of positives for my first round of the year,” he said.
“The first five holes out there as tough as any opening stretch we’ll play all year – you just can’t miss a shot as you’ll be punished.
“But it is good to test yourself early on and Abu Dhabi next week isn’t a pushover either so that will be good, too.”
Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin set the pace with a flawless 67, an effort that drew praise from Gallacher.
“For someone to go round here in tough conditions without having a bogey on their card is a brilliant effort – what a round that is,” he added. “But I’m not too far behind and now it’s a case of trying to build on a decent start to the year.”
Playing with Jacquelin, Montgomerie headed into today’s second round sitting joint-fifth after an opening round 70.
“I am playing much more golf than I ever have,” said the eight-times European No 1 afterwards.
“I’m a member of three Tours now – and the more I am playing the better I am playing.”