Ex-Hoop Grant on a French roll
Stephen Grant

Stephen Grant

Former Shamrock Rovers winger Stephen Grant showed his growing maturity as a pro golfer when he defied high winds and driving rain to grab a share of the first round lead on the Challenge Tour in northern France.

As Glasson’s Colm Moriarty posted a five under 67 in the Madeira Islands Open to trail leader Alvaro Velasco by just three shots, the 35-year old ex-footballer hit a three under 67 to take a one-stroke lead alongside England’s Chris Hanson and Eddie Pepperell in the  €160,000 ALLIANZ Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne.

Despite winds gusting up to 30mph, Birr ace Grant was proud to hang tough and pick up five birdies with his only mistake a double bogey at the 14th, where he lost a ball off the tee.

He said: “It’s the worst wind I’ve played in for a long time, because I’ve been playing on the Hooters Tour in the States for the last year or so and if you get wind and rain over there it normally means a storm is on the way, so you generally tend to get called in off the course before too long.

“So it was tough, and probably a few years ago I would’ve been blown out of the tournament. But I’m now a much more experienced player, so I’m proud of the way I fought and dug in.”

He added: “It was really tough out there, it was just a battle. I was just trying to make pars and stay patient, and for the most part I managed to do that.

“I played some solid golf, and was in control of my ball all day – other than the one bad swing on the 14th. It went in the bushes on the left and we couldn’t find it so that was frustrating, but I can’t be too upset with a 67 in those conditions.

Ballyliffin’s Brendan McCarroll shot a level par 70 but David Higgins, Chris Devlin and Niall Kearney had to settle for 73’s with Limerick rookie Cian McNamara a shot further back after a 74. Jonny Caldwell (75) and Richard Kilpatrick (76) also face a tough task to make the cut.

In Madeira, recently-engaged Moriarty made his first European Tour appearace of the 2012 season with a stylish 67 that left him tied or eighth at Santo da Serra.

After starting with a bogey on the 10th, the 32-year old birdied the 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 18th to turn in 32 and then followed another bogey at the first with birdies at the third and eighth.

Spaniard Velasco, 30, shot an eight under 64 to lead by two shots from five players – English trio Tommy Fleetwood, Ben Parker and Oliver Wilson, Swedes Magnus A Carlsson and Joakim Lagergren and Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen.

Simon Thornton faces a battle to make the cut after taking 36 putts in a 76 while Madeira based Irish pro Dara Ford signed for a 78.