Thirteen proved lucky for Simon McCarthy as he stole the show with a hole-in-one on the third day of Qualifying School – Stage 1 at Five Lakes in Essex.
The 24 year old left-hander sank his seven iron tee shot at the 182 yard fourth hole (his 13th) for his first competitive ace on his way to a round of 65.
It leaves him on six under par 210, just one stroke behind joint leaders, Roby Paolillo from Italy and Australian Adam Crawford.
McCarthy's ace came in the middle of an amazing run after he had reached the turn with nine successive pars. But he started his homeward run birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle and went on to claim two more birdies for an inward 30.
"Nothing had happened for me on the first two days or on my front nine today," he said. "But I knew I was hitting some good putts and I just had to be patient. Then it all started to happen while the hole-in-one turned a good round into a very good one.
"I've had two aces before but none in competition. I hit it out of the middle of the club and the ball bounced once before checking and rolling into the cup."
After that he missed a couple more birdie chances before chipping in from off the green the seventh for birdie, while another chance went at the next.
"Coming up the last I knew I had a chance of coming home in 29 but my ten foot birdie putt lipped out," added the Devonian. “Now I've just got to keep it going tomorrow and perhaps I'll repeat last year's performance when I finished first here."
Paolillo, 20, returned 71 for 209, seven under, finishing alongside 26 year old Crawford, making his first tilt at a European Tour card.
"I didn't think seven under would be leading because conditions were much easier today," he said. "But I'm happy with my position. I didn't come all this way to play badly."
Ipswich-based Jon Bevan shares third place with McCarthy on 210 after a 71, while Finland's Jani Saari carded 66 for fifth spot on 211.
Welshman Mark Litton and Sweden's Joakim Kristiansson, who shared the overnight lead with Paolillo, fell back after disappointing rounds. Litton returned 76 for 214 and Kristiansson 74 for 212.
The cut came at seven-over par 223 with 61 players teeing off in tomorrow's final round bidding to finish in the top 23 places and ties.
David Patrick of Scotland regained the clubhouse lead at Carden Park with a third round of 65, five under par.
The Scot, a member of the victorious Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad in 1999, occupies pole position after three rounds but only half the field have completed their third rounds following a four hour delay in Wednesday due to heavy rain. The remainder of the field will complete their third rounds on Friday morning after which the 54 hole cut will be made. The top 24 players and ties will progress to Qualifying School Stage 2.
At Wynyard Club, the lead is shared by three Scots in Roger Beames, John Greaves and newly crowned Scottish Amateur Champion Barry Hume in two under par. Beames, the former Amateur Championship runner-up, carded a round of 70, while Greaves went one better with a 69 and Hume shot a 68. A total of 71 players survived the 54 hole cut to progress to the final round with the goal being to finish in the top 25 and ties to continue the long road towards the Qualifying School Finals.
England’s Carl Richardson fired a round of 68, four under par, to take the lead at Chart Hills on eight under par 208. He leads by one from two other Englishmen – Ben Willman and David Dixon, winner of the silver medal as the leading amateur in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Richardson started with a birdie after hitting his approach on the first to just six inches and, after three putting the third, got going again with an eagle on the fifth. Two birdies on the back nine completed a round of 68.
“I got off to a great start and then played very solid, hitting all 18 greens in regulation,” he said.
Richardson already holds a unique position in the record books after both he and his father Carl, a European Seniors Tour player, reached the semi-finals of the 1996 English Amateur Championship. “One more win and we would have met in the final,” Richardson Snr remembers.
Carl as since turned professional and, after reaching the Qualifying School Finals last year, has his mind set on a return visit and hopes he will be better prepared second time around.
“Last year I thought you had to shoot low to secure your card but in reality that is not the case,” he said. “Hopefully I can get there again this year and I will know what to expect and be more prepared.”
A total of 72 players survived the 54 holes cut and will be bidding for a place among the top 25 and ties.
Across the Channel at Moliets, the Spanish pair of Ivo Giner and Victor Casado hold a two shot lead over the field after rounds of 70 and 67 respectively took them to ten under par 206 with Daniel Nunez of Argentina occupying third.
Those players in the top 28 and ties will graduate to the Qualifying School – Stage 2, which takes place over three courses in Spain on November 6-9.