Justin Walters impresses in first round of Qatar Masters

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Justin Walters impresses in first round of Qatar Masters

Euro Tour

Justin Walters impresses in first round of Qatar Masters

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NC State grad Justin Walters has been waiting for his first European Tour win since turning pro in 2003. He’s given himself a decent chance of achieving that in the $1.75 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

The South African shares the first-round lead with Spain’s Adri Arnaus after a 5-under-par 67. The 38-year-old had no bogeys on his card despite windy conditions at Doha Golf Club.

“Warming up today in the wind, I was thinking anything under par would be a great score, so to go 5-under— I’m ecstatic,” Walters said

“I putted really well, certainly when I left myself a bit of work to do. Short game was really good today. I’ve done a lot of work on that. I haven’t done that in a while, even in calm conditions, so to do it in conditions like this is very welcome.

“I got in the right frame of mind around the turn. If you’re 1 or 2-under, you feel as though it could go either way, but I made some solid birdies and that gave me a big boost.”

Walters was a two-time All American at NC State playing under coach Richard Sykes. He has dual South African and English citizenship and resides in England. In fact, he was considered for the 2003 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team because of his English heritage.

The Johannesburg born player has split his time between the European Tour and the South African Sunshine Tour since his NC State days. He has two South African wins – the 2004 Parmalat Classic and 2011 Royal Swazi Sun Investec Open – but has yet to lift a European Tour trophy. He has two runner-up finishes in 191 starts, taking second place in the 2013 Portugal Masters and 2014 Joburg Open.

Walters hasn’t started the 2019 campaign with the sort of form he showed in the opening round in Qatar. He’s made four-of-seven cuts, stands 90th on the money list and T34 in the Oman Open is his best performance.

Arnaus earned his ticket to this year’s European Tour after finishing second on the European Challenge Tour money list. He won the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final to do so. Like Walters, he used college golf to hone his skills. He graduated from Texas A&M in 2016.

“It was so good being in contention last year and then at the end being able to close it out at the Challenge Tour Grand Final gave me the belief that I could go on and do it on a bigger stage,” the 24-year-old said.

Arnaus, the 2017 Spanish Amateur champion, has made a better start to 2019 than Walters. He’s made five of seven cuts, with a best place finish of T9 in the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He’s 51st on the European Tour money list.

Seven players share second place on 4-under, including 2012 Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and three-time winner Richie Ramsay of Scotland.

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