Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon showed no signs of the serious shoulder injury which has hampered his recent career when setting a new course record to take the lead on day one of the Banque Populaire Moroccan Classic on the European Challenge Tour.
The man from Aberdeen, who can no longer sleep on his right hand side after injuring his shoulder in a snowball fight in December 2004, leads a quintet of challengers by two shots after carding eight birdies and a solitary bogey en route to a seven under par 65 at El Jadida Sofitel Golf Resort in Morocco.
Hutcheon, the winner of last year’s Tartan Tour in Scotland, is seeking his second Challenge Tour victory on Moroccan soil after his win in the Banque Commercial du Maroc in 2003.
He said: “The course is in fantastic condition, and the sun shines here a bit more than it does in Aberdeen! I plodded my way round without playing brilliantly today, but I’m enjoying my golf a lot more now. The injury focused my mind and taught me not to take anything for granted, because I’m in a privileged position.
“A friend rugby tackled me from behind, and my shoulder bore the full brunt of the impact on the ground. I decided against surgery in the end and just went for phsyio, and it's got gradually better over the past couple of years. It'll never be back to working normally again, and I can't lie on my right hand side, because it's too painful. So it disrupts my sleep quite badly, but other than that, I've got used to it.”
In hot pursuit of Hutcheon on five under par are Holland’s Wil Besseling, winner of the II Club Colombia Masters last month; the English duo of Matthew Cort and Adam Gee; and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Matthew Zions, who both eagled the 11th hole.
In benign morning conditions, Gee shot a 67 to banish the memory of his “nightmare” finish in France last weekend.
Last week, he had played himself into contention on the final day of the AGF-Allianz Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne, only to wreck his chances of claiming his maiden Challenge Tour title with a triple bogey seven on the 72nd hole.
But the 27 year old, who finished runner up in the 2006 Amateur Championship, put that disappointment behind him by collecting eight birdies – five of them on the back nine.
Gee, who came fourth in the 2007 Russian Golf Championship on only his second start on The European Tour, said: “I obviously had a bit of a nightmare on the final hole last week – but overall I was pleased with how I played in the tournament, so I knew my game was in good shape coming to Morocco. I’ve made a good start, but last week taught me to take nothing for granted.”