Dermot McElroy hits the front in France
Dermot McElroy in action at last year's Volopa Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort. Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Dermot McElroy in action at last year's Volopa Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort. Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Dermot McElroy carded a four under par round of 67 to share the lead on a mixed day for the Irish in the Challenge Tour's Hauts de France Golf Open. 

Strong winds made scoring difficult at Aa Saint Omer Golf Club with the afternoon starters facing gusts of up to 25 miles per hour in northern France. 
McElroy was one of the morning starters and he came alive over the front nine with three birdies and an eagle to reach the turn in 31. 

The 24-year-old, who has finished second in his two appearances on the satellite EuroPro Tour this season, made another gain at the tenth, but found the going tougher as the wind picked up over his closing eight holes. 

He would join England’s James Allan as the clubhouse leader on four under par – a score that would be matched by Scotland’s Grant Forrest and Belgium’s Christopher Mivis in the afternoon. 

Despite exhibiting all the skills of a player comfortable in blustery conditions, McElroy believes he does not play his best golf in high winds – and is hoping he can perform even better in calmer conditions later this week. 

“I played really well over the front nine,” he said. “I got it going really down the closing stretch of the front nine in particular. 

“The back nine was really tough with lots of shots into the wind, but the front nine was more downwind with only one or two holes where the wind was coming back at you – so I was able to score a lot better over the front nine. 

“I took three weeks off after my last Challenge Tour appearance in Spain – as I felt that I was playing pretty awfully – so I felt that I needed some time to work on my game.

“Last week I did play really well though after that break so I did arrive in France this week feeling like I was starting to find a bit of form.

“To be honest I really don’t like playing in the wind, but you just have to get on with it. There’s more wind forecast tomorrow so you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do and try not to let it affect you.

“The wind is meant to die down as the week goes on, so hopefully I can raise my game even further then.”

One back from McElroy, Allan, Mivis and Forrest are a group of four players including Italy’s Alessandro Tadini and Scotland’s Ross Kellett.

Derry's Ruaidhri McGee is tied 51st after mixing five birdies with six bogeys in a one over 72

Neil O'Briain, Cormac Sharvin and Gary Hurley are tied 80th after three-over 74s with Michael Hoey (76) 113th, Chris Selfridge (77) 125th and Kevin Phelan (78) 135th.

Scores after Round One

67 J Allan (Eng), C Mivis (Bel), G Forrest (Sco), Dermot McElroy (Nir),

68 S Fernandez (Esp), F Marty (Fra), A Tadini (Ita), R Kellett (Sco),

69 M Trappel (Aut), O Rozner (Fra), J Kunzenbacher (Ger), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), M Kinhult (Swe), F Laporta (Ita), T Linard (Fra), J Rutherford (Eng), B Eccles (Aus), V Riu (Fra), D Van Driel (Ned), J Kruyswijk (RSA), M Madsen (Den),

70 P Whiteford (Sco), E Dubois (Fra), V Perez (Fra), S Forsström (Swe), C Griffiths (Eng), M Fenasse (Fra), M Baldwin (Eng), A Maestroni (Ita), L Gagli (Ita), R Eyraud (Fra), J Guerrier (Fra), A Connelly (Can), M Ovesen (Den), M Ford (Eng),

71 F Bergamaschi (Ita), J Zunic (Aus), C Brazillier (Fra), J Doherty (Sco), M Tullo (Chi), T Pulkkanen (Fin), M Rohwer (RSA), G Payne (Eng), V Østerby (Den), R Santos (Por), B Virto (Esp), M Schneider (Ger), R Kakko (Fin), M Haastrup (Den), R Fitzgerald (Eng),

72 M Schwab (Aut), G Schoeb (Fra), M Galiano Aguilar (Esp), B Evans (Eng), R Enoch (Wal), E Ferguson (Sco), E Van Rooyen (RSA), J Lando Casanova (Fra), Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), P Oriol (Esp), R Bechu (Fra), P Howard (Eng), R Dinwiddie (Eng), D Law (Sco), B Hafthorsson (Isl), B Paolini (USA), M Laskey (Wal), J Senior (Eng),

73 R Saxton (Ned), E Di Nitto (Ita), J Brun (Fra), A Bernadet (Fra), K Samooja (Fin), J Vecchi Fossa (Ita), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), J Lopez Lazaro (Fra), J Sarasti (Esp), C Del Moral (Esp), T Tree (Eng),

74 D Dixon (Eng), R Thuillier (Fra), S Jeppesen (Swe), K Hesbois (Bel), J Glennemo (Swe), T Shadbolt (Eng), P Mejow (Ger), R James (Wal), M Eggenberger (Sui), R Evans (Eng), J Sjöholm (Swe), T Perrot (Fra), Cormac Sharvin (Nir), G Woolgar (Eng), M Ortolani (Ita), A Grenier (Fra), H Joannes (Bel), Neil O'Briain (Irl), I Cantero Gutierrez (Esp), Gary Hurley (Irl), K Eriksson (Swe), J Barnes (Eng), S Hodgson (Eng),

75 D Gaunt (Aus), P Tarver-Jones (Eng), H Casey (Eng), T Lawrence (RSA), A Meronk (Pol), C Russo (Fra), F Daux (Fra), A Snobeck (Fra), S Einhaus (Ger), M Altmeyer (Fra),

76 D Fox (Aus), M Lundberg (Swe), T Murray (Eng), J Verselin (Fra), E España (Fra), A Schwartz (Fra), M Cort (Eng), Michael Hoey (Nir), B Chapellan (Fra), A Zemmer (Ita), A Rozner (Fra), L Acikalin (am) (Tur),

77 Chris Selfridge (Nir), M Decottignies-Lafon (Fra), O Stark (Swe), B Åkesson (Swe), R Marguery (Fra), H Smart (Eng), S Hutsby (Eng), F Maccario (Ita), N Tacher (Fra), S Gautier (Fra), G Cambis (Fra),

78 D Huizing (Ned), C Doak (Sco), Kevin Phelan (Irl), S Connor (Eng), Z Lombard (RSA), M Cabrera-Bello (Esp), N Roche (Fra), A Pavan (Ita), C Lee (Sco), T Santigny (am) (Fra),

79 P Maddy (Eng), E Johansen (Nor), A Pinguet (Fra),

80 G Yang (Kor),

82 J Ramos (Por),

83 B Robinson (Eng),

84 C Berardo (Fra), 

87 R Schneider (Fra), T Yamac (am) (Tur),

90 M De Los Santos (am) (Dom),

RET Y Touhami (Mar).