Former footballer Stephen Grant hopes he can continue with his cool, calm play and grab his first big win on European soil in the Alps Tour’s Open International de Rebetz just north of Paris.
The 36-year old ex-Shamrock Rovers star slashed two shots off the course record when he hit an eagle and six birdies in an immaculate, eight under 65 to go into Friday’s second round tied for second place, just two strokes behind leader Jesus Legarrea of Spain.
The Florida based winger turned swing reckoned he could have shot a 63 but birdie putts on his final two holes narrowly missed the target as he finished the day on 10 under par.
And while he admitted he was lucky to avoid disaster at the par-four seventh, his 16th hole, he’s hoping to remain on an even keel as he bids for victory in his first Alps Tour start of the season.
“I got a real lucky break,” Grant said after the fifth course record of his career. “I hit my ball in the rough on the right hand side and it was absolutely buried. I hit nine-iron out the lie and it could have gone in the water but it got over.”
Explaining that a studied attempt to keep calm is playing dividends, the Birr native added: “I was a pretty aggressive soccer player. I’m trying to mellow myself, I’m too high and low you know, so I’m trying to chill out.”
Tied for second with Spaniard Borja Etchart, Grant has another Irishman breathing down his neck in Ballyliffin’s Brendan McCarroll.
The Donegal man eagled the last for a four under 68 to share sixth place, five shots off the pace on seven under par.
Winner of two events on the Alps Tour last year, McCarroll was left to regret a double bogey seven at the 11th, but recovered brilliantly to play his last seven holes four under par.
As Banbridge’s Richard Kilpatrick (76-72) missed the cut by four shots, leader Legarrea had seven birdies and an eagle in the soft morning conditions, carding a seven-under-par 66 on his 26th birthday.
A regular practice partner of twice Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, he told reporter Tom Pilcher: “Today was another great round tee to green, similar to yesterday, and with last night’s rain the course became easier in my opinion. It gave me a present today.
“I’m delighted to have played good golf two days running and tomorrow I hope to carry on in the same vein and make the most of playing on this great course.”
The Spaniard forgot to enter himself for the tournament and was given an invitation by the Alps Tour director.