Michele Reale headlined a glorious day for Italy in Stage Two of the 2001 Qualifying School when he led the first round of the competition at Pals Golf Club in the north of Spain.
The 30 year old, who topped the Challenge Tour rankings in 1997, carded a superb seven under par 66 to lead the way by one shot from the host nation’s Jose Manuel Lara with Ireland’s Paddy Gribben in third on 68.
Reale, who led the first round of the Atlanet Italian Open at Is Molas last week with a 63 before finishing in a tie for ninth place overall, continued in a similar vein of form with a flawless performance.
Starting from the first tee, the man who now resides in Monaco in the south of France, began his assault on the Pals layout with birdies at the first, third and fifth holes before a further birdie at the ninth saw him to the turn in 32.
Another birdie at the 11th followed before further gains at two of the three par fives on the inward half, the 505 yard 14th and the 545 yard 16th, saw the Italian home in 34 for an immaculate 66.
At nearby Emporda, the Italian success story continued when Massimo Florioli and Marcello Santi shared pole position with Germany’s Marcel Siem after all three players carded five under par 66s.
Meanwhile at Perelada, English amateur Jon Lupton grabbed a share of the limelight when he moved into a tie for the first round lead with fellow countryman Lee Thompson after both players carded excellent six under par 65s.
Lupton, a 22 year old plus-four handicapper from North Yorkshire, started his flawless round at the tenth hole and immediately picked up shots at the 11th and 13th before further birdies at the 16th and 17th saw him to the turn in 31.
Turning for home, Lupton’s only departure from par came with birdies at the fourth and fifth to move him alongside former West Region champion Lee Thompson who carded seven birdies, which more than made up for his only dropped shot of the day at the par five seventh.
Elsewhere it proved a testing day for the five players who topped the respective Stage One venues in September.
At Pals, Scotland’s Roger Beames – who won at the Wynyard Club – fared best with a three under par 70 to move into a share of 15th place while England’s Nick Dougherty (winner at Carden Park) and Spain’s Ivo Giner (winner at Moliets) shared 47th after opening level par 73s.
At Emporda, Frenchman David Dupart – who won at Chart Hills – struggled to repeat the performance and had to settle for a five over par opening 76 which saw him in a share of 71st place.
The best performance of the day came from Australian Adam Crawford – who won at Five Lakes – and whose opening three under par 68 at Perelada saw the Antipodean move into a share of ninth.