Thursday, 04 May 2000
Michele Reale, the Italian who topped the Challenge Tour rankings in 1997, blitzed his way to the first round lead in the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open in Switzerland.

The 28-year-old carded nine birdies in a 63, a record for the redesigned Golf Club Patriziale course, but he only leads by one on a day of low scoring.

Hard on Reale's heels are Matthias Ziegler of Germany and Spain's Alvaro Salto, who both returned 64, while Adam Mednick from Sweden went round in 65.

Salto, an afternoon starter when the sun shone after morning rain, made a sensational start from the 10th tee when he opened birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to go five under par after four holes. The rest of the round didn't contain so many fireworks but he gained two more shots in his 64.

An early morning storm with thunder and lightning forced an 80-minute suspension of play but when play resumed Reale was the man who set the pace. His 63 is his lowest round on the Challenge Tour but not his lowest in Switzerland as he shot the same figure in the Memorial Olivier Barras tournament in Crans-sur-Sierre.

Current ranking leader Trevor Immelman from South Africa is among a large group on 68, as is Swiss amateur Raphael de Souza, who played in the Junior Ryder Cup in America last year.

The Swiss connection was apparent in the leading British player who is Marcus Knight. The 29-year-old originally hailed from Bridgnorth in Shropshire but has spent the last six years as a teaching professional in Lausanne.

He carded a 66 and then revealed that he is hoping to play the Challenge Tour regularly if he can gain a category. He is also hoping to gain Swiss nationality as his wife is Swiss and he intends to live permanently there.

Reigning Amateur champion, Graeme Storm, carded a 67 in his first major professional event. The 22-year-old from Hartlepool, who joined the paid ranks immediately after playing in the US Masters in Augusta, had five birdies and one bogey.

"I'm delighted," he said. "I played solid throughout the round and while it would have been nice to shoot 63 I'm happy to settle for 67 in my first major professional tournament."

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