A trio of players are in hot pursuit of self-styled “Iron Man” Jean Pierre Cixous of France after day one of the Telenet Trophy on the European Challenge Tour.
Despite sometimes torrential rain which made for treacherous playing conditions at Houthalen Golf and Country Club in Limburg, Belgium, Cixous carded a flawless round of 66 to lead on six under par, one shot clear of the English duo of Andrew Butterfield and David Horsey, and Italy’s Michele Reale.
Cixous took three years out of the game to concentrate on his passion for triathlons, but recently returned to the fairways after rediscovering his love for golf.
Compared to the two “Iron Man” events he competed in – which involve a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride, and a 42km marathon, and take about “five or six weeks” to recover from – 18 holes must have seemed like a walk in the park.
Cixous, who only arrived in Belgium yesterday after missing out on qualification for the Open de France ALSTOM, said: “I haven’t played on the Challenge Tour for about six weeks now, mainly because I couldn’t afford the travelling. But I played at the French Open qualifying, and even though I missed out, I still played quite well.
“I only arrived on Wednesday, so today was my practice round – hopefully, things can only get better! Hopefully the weather will also improve, because I didn’t have a caddie with me today – so I got very wet!”
Given the conditions, Horsey’s round of 67 was also mightily impressive. A bogey on the par three third hole, courtesy of a fluffed chip, was the only blot on an otherwise flawless copybook.
But having led after the first day of last week’s SK Golf Challenge in Finland only to subsequently drop out of contention, Horsey was not about to get carried away with his exploits.
He said: “It’s obviously a good start, but I won’t be getting ahead of myself. It’s no use playing well here and there – I’ve got to be more consistent and put it together over four rounds. But we’re getting there. I was pretty pleased with 67 today, particularly in those conditions. It was raining fairly steadily, then on about the 13th hole, the heavens opened and it started bucketing down. So from then on it just was a case of trying to make pars, and luckily enough I managed to do that.”
Meanwhile, Horsey’s compatriot Butterfield has set his sights on a top ten finish – so he can invest in some laser eye surgery to cure his myopia.
Butterfield’s opening round of 67 was made all the remarkable by the fact that he had to wear glasses after damaging his contact lenses before he went out to play – and forgetting to pack a spare pair.
The Londoner – who has bounced back to form admirably after two torrid days at last week’s SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by NEUFLIZE OBC on The European Tour – has now resolved to book himself in for the same eye treatment World Number One Tiger Woods underwent, should he collect a sizeable cheque.
He said: “It probably would’ve been sensible to pack a spare pair of contact lenses. I had to wipe my glasses before every shot, which got a bit annoying, so I’m off to the opticians now to see if I can sort out some new contacts. But if I do well here, maybe I will be able to afford some laser surgery!”
Butterfield’s flawless round, which featured five birdies, was matched by Reale, who was inspired by his native Italy’s triumph over France at the European Championships.
The pair are trailed by a pack of players which includes England’s Paul Dwyer, who picked up three shots in his last three holes, and home hope Gerald Greese, who closed with a birdie for a round of 68.
Two shots further back is England’s John E Morgan, who has no recollection of Limburg Golf and Country Club – despite the fact that he shot a 66 there on the first day of the 2006 Telenet Trophy.
Fast forward two years, and a round of 70 has seen Morgan claim a share of 11th place on two under par. Morgan suffers from memory loss, a side effect of the epilepsy he was diagnosed with four years ago, meaning he had to be reminded by his fellow Challenge Tour Members that he had competed at the inaugural event – and had even led the tournament after the opening round.
The 30 year old, who finished tied tenth at last week’s SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by NEUFLIZE OBC on The European Tour, said: “Apparently I played here two years ago, and I was even leading after the first round. That’s what some of the boys told me anyway – I thought they were winding me up, because I was convinced I’d never played this course in my life. Sometimes the memory loss is a good thing if I’ve had a bad round, but I wish I’d remembered how I shot 66 round here!”
His compatriot Robert Coles, also a top ten finisher at Aa St. Omer Golf Club, is one shot ahead of Morgan on three under par.
Coles, who tied third at the 2006 Omega European Masters on The European Tour, said: “Last week really kick started my season, which was a bit of a relief because it’s taken me a while to get going. But I brought that form into this week, and hopefully I can carry it on for the rest of the year now.”
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