Ashley Chesters fires 66 for early lead at Valderrama

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Ashley Chesters fires 66 for early lead at Valderrama

Euro Tour

Ashley Chesters fires 66 for early lead at Valderrama

Ashley Chesters never gets mentioned in the list of promising young Englishmen currently playing the European Tour. That may change if he continues the form he’s shown in the opening round of the $2.9 million Valderrama Andalucia Masters.

Chesters returned a 5-under 66 around the 1997 Ryder Cup course to take a one-shot lead over France’s Gregory Bourdy. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia is tied for third place on 3 under after a 68. Scotland’s Richie Ramsay is a further shot back in joint fifth place.

Chesters was almost flawless around one of the toughest courses in Continental Europe. A bogey at the par-4 10th hole was the only blemish on his card along with six birdies.

The Englishman is currently 88th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. His playing rights for 2019 are secure, but he’s looking to move into the top 60 to get into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

While Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Eddie Pepperell, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Matt Wallace are trotted out as the vanguard of young English talent, Chesters is one of a number of players lurking in the background, hoping to break into the big time.

The 28-year-old has similar pedigree to some of the above inasmuch as he had a stellar amateur career that saw him win consecutive European Amateur Championships (2013-14), and help Great Britain & Ireland win the 2011 Walker Cup. Chesters played a huge part in that victory, chipping in three and a half points out of four matches. However, life in the pro game hasn’t been as easy as he’d hoped.

Chesters has made four appearances to the European Tour Qualifying School with just one success. He took the 17th card at the 2016 school and was one of just three Q School grads – Pepperell and Edoardo Molinari were the others – to keep his card after the 2017 season.

Fellow Englishman Chris Paisley, Paul Waring, Pepperell and Richard McEvoy have all earned their breakthrough victories on this year’s European Tour. We’ll find out over the next three days if Chesters has the self-belief to join them.

Ramsay is trying to cling onto full European Tour status. He lies 124th on the money list, and needs to get inside the top 110 after this event to play a full schedule next year. The 2006 U.S. Amateur champion is a three-time European Tour winner. He’d love to make it four this week to extend his European Tour status for another two years.

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