Englishman Dean Barnes produced a sparkling debut performance on the European Challenge Tour, carding six under par 66 to move into a share of the lead at the Lexus Open in Norway. Inspired by the opportunity to ply his trade on a higher plain, Barnes, a late entry into the tournament at the Larvik Golf Club, seized his opportunity to join the Swedish duo of Jonathon Fransson and Claes Nilsson at the top of the leaderboard.
Starting his round on the tenth tee, the 26 year old, picked up birdies on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes before producing one of the shots of the round on the par five third hole. After a good drive down the fairway, Barnes shaped a beautiful two iron to just five feet and duly rolled home the eagle putt to move to five under for the day.
He duly finished off the round with a birdie on the ninth to post the clubhouse lead that only three other players in the field could match.
Fransson looked likely to surpass Barnes as he stormed to the turn in four under par with a bogey on his card, but he took a step back on the tenth before rallying well with a further three birdies to move into the joint lead.
The only blemish on Nilsson’s card came on the tough par three 12th where dropped one of the four strokes he had picked up previously, but, like his countryman Fransson, he produced a strong finish of two birdies in the closing stages of his first round to move to six under.
Of the three leaders, Barnes was arguably the most impressive considering the Englishman was making his first ever appearance on the Challenge Tour as he handed over an unblemished card.
“I just got the phone call to come out here on Monday,” explained Barnes, “so you could say that I am adapting to this rather well!
“I have been playing on the Europro Tour for the past few seasons but it’s great to come out here on the Challenge Tour and get some experience of a higher level. I think the Europro has improved a lot in terms of how it is run but you are definitely aware that you have stepped up a level when you come out to the Challenge Tour.
“Things are so well organized out here and nothing is left to chance, which is great for the players because it means we can just get on with the golf, which is what we want to do.”
Of the five players tied in fourth place – just one shot off the lead – Norwegian Amateur Knud Borsheim made the biggest impression on the home crowds at Larvik. The 19 year old consolidated his brilliant front nine of five under par 31 with nine straight pars on the back nine to join the English pair of Stuart Cage and Tim Milford, as well as the Dutchman, Guido van der Valk.
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