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Advantage Atlevi at Senior Q School

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Sweden’s Magnus Persson Atlevi the youngest player in European Tour history to earn a card via the Qualifying School, made an impressive start to his first attempt at the European Senior Tour’s equivalent, establishing a two stroke advantage after the opening round in Portugal’s Algarve.

At the 1982 European Tour Qualifying School, Atlevi claimed a European Tour card at the age of 17 years 116 days, beating Alan Evans’ record set five years previously by 128 days, with Italian Renato Paratore, the latest teen-sensation, 225 days older when he came through the most recent contest in November.

Now Atlevi, who does not turn 50 until July 26, finds himself one of the ‘youngest’ players trying to earn a spot on the Senior Tour for the 2015 season, and he fired a six under par opening round of 65 to set the first round pace, finishing two shots clear of Canada’s Ken Tarling and Englishman Graeme Bell at Pestana Resort’s Vale da Pinta course.

“I’m delighted with that start,” he said. “Obviously it is a marathon, but it is a fantastic way to start. I couldn’t be happier. To have a start like that in any tournament is good, but especially in the winter, and when you don’t play full time anymore. That makes it even more fun.

“I played pretty well all the way round. I just made the one bogey when I three putted from long distance on the seventh, but the rest was good and I got on to most of the par fives in two. I was inside ten feet on each of the last three holes too, but the putts slipped by, so it could have been even better. Let’s hope I can keep it up.”

Twice a runner up on The European Tour, Atlevi finished inside the top 90 on The European Tour Order of Merit for eight consecutive seasons after securing his card, and won three-times on the European Challenge Tour in the 1990s.

Atlevi is looking to make an immediate impact on his return to competitive action after spending the past five years as a teaching professional and tournament director in his native Sweden, having ended his regular playing career in 2008.

“If my game was in good shape, I thought I would give the Senior Tour a go,” he said. “I didn’t win on The European Tour and I want to win. I don’t want to just be finishing 30th. My game has been really solid over the last couple of years, mainly because of my teaching. I’ve been trying things on myself and it’s been good fun seeing how it all works out.”

While naturally a different player to the precocious talent who burst on to the scene as part of the pioneering Swedish generation at the start of 1980s, Atlevi can still draw up on that memorable experience as he begins a new chapter this week.

“It was obviously a long time ago that I first got my card on The European Tour as a 17 year old but all that experience helps,” said the veteran of 17 European Tour Qualifying School campaigns.

“Qualifying School is a mind game. I’ve probably been to Qualifying School about 20 times over the years in Europe and Asia. You have to draw on each of those experiences. Unfortunately most of them are bad ones in the sense I didn’t make it, but you can reflect on those too and learn from them. I just approach it as another tournament and don’t allow crazy thoughts to creep in. To shoot 65 on the opening day just shows my preparation was right and I now need to continue playing well.”

Tarling also has plenty of Qualifying School experience to fall back on as he embarks on his seventh campaign at Vale da Pinta. The 56 year old opened with back-to-back birdies followed by consecutive bogeys at the third and fourth holes to reach the turn in level par 34, before four birdies in six holes at the start of his back nine for a round of 67.

“It’s my best start here, so I have to be happy with that,” he said. “I got some putts going today, which was the difference. I hit every green on the back nine, which was nice as the wind got up too.

“I was at the final of Champions Tour Qualifying School in November and didn’t pick up a club until I came here, as we have had snow back in Canada, so it’s great to get off to such a good start.”

Bell, who is competing in his third Senior Tour Qualifying School, had four birdies in his round of 67 to share second place with Tarling, while French duo Roger Sabbaros and Jean Pierre Sallat are a further two shots back on two under par, along with Englishman Bernard White.

The leading six players at the conclusion of Thursday’s final round will receive full cards for the 2015 Senior Tour season, where they will compete alongside some of golf’s greatest names, including former Ryder Cup Captains Mark James, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam. Those finishing in positions seven to 14 will earn conditional cards.

Compete first round scores (par 71)

65 M Atlevi (Swe) ,

67 K Tarling (Can) , G Bell (Eng) ,

69 B White (Eng) , J Sallat (Fra) , R Sabarros (Fra) ,

70 R Fish (Eng) , J Harrison (Eng) , M Wharton (Eng) ,

71 D Narveson (USA) , J Nougues (Arg) , F Lamare (Fra) , T Elliott (Aus) ,

72 B Conser (USA) , C Grenier (Aut) , G Joyner (Aus) , Y Nilsson (Swe) , J Laforce (Can) , S Cipa (Eng) , S East (am) (Eng) ,

73 M Bianco (Ita) , L Perrins (RSA) , J Sanchez (Mex) , I Lyner (Eng) , A Macdonald (Eng) , P Scott (Eng) , M Guzman (Arg) , K Hinton (Eng) , J Murphy (Eng) ,

74 R Ellis (Eng) , D Westermark (Swe) , P Parker (USA) , P Martinez (Par) , J Drummond (Eng) , J Berendt (Arg) , K Spurgeon (Eng) , D Wettlaufer (Can) , F Grosset-Grange (Fra) ,

75 G Marks (Eng) , D Ray (Eng) , S McNally (Eng) , T Söderberg (Swe) , G Norquist (USA) , K Smith (Can) , M Hallberg (Swe) ,

76 G Milne (Eng) , S Bennett (Eng) , P Gresswell (Eng) , R Adams (Eng) , P Dahlberg (Swe) , R Franco (Par) , A Saddington (Sco) , C Milne (USA) , A George (Eng) ,

77 M Deboub (Alg) , A Mori (Ita) , P Romero (Esp) , B James (USA) , P Dugeny (Fra) , D Pearce (Eng) , M Belsham (Eng) , T Cooper (am) (Eng) , N Gold (am) (Sco) ,

78 J Evans (Eng) , K Hutton (Sco) , A Firman (Eng) , J Davila (Esp) , M Reynard  (Eng) ,

79 R Roper (Eng) , R Tlhabanyane (RSA) , J Lubieniecki (Pol) , D James (Sco) , N Robson (am) (Sco) ,

80 N Terry (Eng) , T Tirkkonen (am) (Fin) ,

81 D Berry (Eng) , M McLean (Eng) ,

82 A Jarrett (Eng) , R Briars  (Eng)