Former Shamrock Rovers star Stephen Grant continued to make positive inroads into his career in professional golf by carding a two under par 70 to remain in contention after round one of the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda, writes the European Challenge Tour.
The 35 year old from Offaly produced four birdies and two bogeys in his opening round over the Pete Dye-designed Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim in south east Austria to lie six shots behind runaway leader Jeppe Huldahl of Denmark going into the second round.
While Grant moved in the right direction, Dubliner Niall Kearney – the only other Irishman in the field – saw his round come unstuck thanks to a couple of untimely double bogeys at the ninth and 12th holes en route to a three over par 75.
Former Wales Open champion Huldahl set a blistering early pace with a brilliant eight under par 64, thanks largely to an incredible finish of an eagle and three birdies in his closing five holes.
The Dane produced a brilliant eagle three on the par five 14th hole of the Pete Dye-designed Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim before three consecutive birdies brought the perfect finish to his eight under par 64 first round.
That was good enough to establish a one-stroke lead over young Frenchman Gary Stal, whose 65 started with five birdies and an eagle in his opening seven holes, with the English duo of Matthew Cryer and Tyrrell Hatton, Scotsmen Gavin Dear and Scot Drummond and Michael Lorenzo-Vera of France a further stroke back on six under.
“The conditions were as good as they could possibly have been this morning,” said Huldahl. “I think when you have the combination of a great golf course in perfect conditions plus nice warm conditions and no wind then you are always going to have the chance to go low.
“You still have to play the shots and hole the putts and I played well for 64, but the conditions were definitely in our favour this morning.”
Huldahl could have been forgiven for arriving at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda wondering what kind of golf he was going to produce after a terrible week in Wales last week on The European Tour.
As a former champion of the ISPS Handa Wales Open, Huldahl went to the Celtic Manor Resort looking to boost his confidence and build momentum for the second half of the Challenge Tour season, but a two round aggregate of 16 over par soon destroyed any positive hopes.
“Last week in Wales was a bit of a horror show,” Huldahl admitted. “I mean, the conditions weren’t great and I think everyone could see that but I played terribly and didn’t know what to expect this week to be honest.
“But I suppose I have enough experience now to know that you cannot let one bad week affect you too much and I managed to come here in good frame of mind. Today’s round certainly helps to stop thinking about last week.
“I am fully committed to the Challenge Tour for the rest of the season because I have only one goal for the year and that is to get my European Tour card back.”
The perfect conditions during round one, coupled with perfect greens and fairways at the Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim, enabled the Challenge Tour’s men in form to extract some outstanding scores during round one.
While Huldahl was head and shoulders above the rest, there was quality golf being played throughout the opening days play in Klagenfurt, with well over half the field going under par and England’s Matt Haines holing in one on the par three fourth hole.
Among the more impressive first round scores were home stars Uli Weinhandl and young amateur Luka Nemecz, who lead the Austrian charge on four under par going into the second round.
But it was Stal who grabbed the attention in the afternoon with that incredible start of five birdies and an eagle in the space of seven holes.
“It was incredible to start this way,” said the young Frenchman who only turned professional four months ago. “I did think about a 59 when I was seven under after seven holes, but it is such a difficult thing to do and in the end I was very happy to score 65.”
Complete Round One Scores from the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda, Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim, 7053 yard par 72.
64 J Huldahl (Den);
65 G Stal (Fra);
66 J Garcia Pinto (Esp); S Drummond (Sco); M Glauert (Ger); T Hatton (Eng); G Dear (Sco); M Cryer (Eng); M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra);
67 C Doak (Sco); A Hartø (Den); J Busby (Eng); D Ulrich (Sui); J Walters (RSA); G Lockerbie(Eng); D Law (Sco);
68 F De Vries(Ned); N Meitinger(Ger); B Åkesson (Swe); P Relecom(Bel); M Korhonen (Fin); U Weinhandl (Aut); F Calmels(Fra); L Jensen (Den); J McLeary(Sco); S Kim (Kor); R Dinwiddie(Eng); L Nemecz (am) (Aut);
69 J Mommo(Fin); L Astl (Aut); C Paisley(Eng); S Jeppesen(Swe); J Wahlqvist (Swe); A Perrino(Ita); S Buhl (Ger); M Moser(Aut); R De Sousa (Sui);
70 J Abbott (Eng); Stephen Grant(Irl); A Ahokas (Fin); M Tullo (Chi); E Pepperell (Eng); M Madsen(Den); D Smith (Eng); M Eliasson (Swe); Å Nilsson (Swe); C Suneson (Esp); D Brooks (Eng); C Günther (Ger); C Macaulay(Sco); R Steiner (Aut); P Oriol (Esp); P Richardson (Eng); S Manley (Wal); S Henry(Sco);
71 P Gal(Cze); T Leon (USA); P Fendt (Aut); G Molteni (Ita); M Haines(Eng); A Kaleka(Fra); J Maurer(Aut); F Ruprecht (Aut); D Geminiani (Ita); X Poncelet(Fra); A Hortal(Esp); M Kieffer (Ger); A Tampion(Aus); C Aguilar(Esp); J Bragulat(Esp); M Brown (Nzl); B Parker(Eng); M Rominger(Sui); L Goddard(Eng); T Baek (Kor); J Van Der Vaart (Ned); K Eriksson (Swe); J Rask (Swe); D Vancsik (Arg); C Weninger (am) (Aut); D Moretti (am) (Aut);
72 M Quiros (Esp); J Lima(Por); G Watremez (Bel); T Ferreira(RSA); F Fritsch(Ger); D Küpper (Ger); P Del Grosso(Arg); T Feyrsinger(Aut); R Echenique (Arg); J Robinson (Eng); J Gibb (Eng); A Bossert (Sui); P Erofejeff (Fin); G Houston (Wal); B Chapellan (Fra); T Whitehouse(Eng); B Hafthorsson (Isl); A Högberg (Swe);
73 S Piaget(Mon); F Praegant (Aut); C Monasterio (Arg); R Hjelm (Den); C Hanson (Eng); A Hansen(Den); L Claverie (Esp); C Mivis(Bel); C Rodiles (Esp); B An (Kor); J Relecom (Bel); M Gojcic (Slo); F Keenan(Eng); B Reiter (Aut); A Maestroni(Ita); T Nemecz (am) (Aut);
74 P Uihlein(USA); M Crespi(Ita); A McArthur(Sco); A Levy (Fra); M Higley (Eng); A Knappe (Ger); A Butterfield (Eng); J Heath(Eng); N Bertasio (Ita); B Barham (Eng); B Pastore (Ita); L Tintera(Cze); J Byrne(Sco); I Elvira(Esp); B Ahlenback (Swe); V Almstrom (Swe);
75 T Mordt(RSA); G Baumann (Sui); C Bausek (Aut); S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp); M Delpodio(Ita); A John (Ger); Niall Kearney (Irl);
76 A Rota (Ita); H Amin(Aut); J Barnes (Eng); D Lokke (Den); E Johansen(Nor); R Goger (am) (Aut);
77 A Parr (Can); J Palmer (Eng); N Ravano (Ita); R Gruber (Aut); F McGuirk(Eng); F Delamontagne(Fra);
78 J Doherty(Sco); G Clark (Eng); B Neumayer (am) (Aut);
80 J Grillon(Fra);
82 S Garcia (Esp); D Wright (Eng)