Long-time pacesetter Kyron Sullivan of Wales was joined at the top of the leaderboard late in the day by home favourite Ralph Miller on day one of The Dutch Futures Presented by The Royal Bank of Scotland.
After the disappointment of missing the cut at last week’s money-spinning Kazakhstan Open, Sullivan bounced back to form at Golf Club Houtrak, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, with a round of 68 which featured birdies on his opening three holes.
Sullivan, who started his round on the tenth tee, dropped his only shot of the day at the par three 14th. But he promptly responded with two further birdies and carded nine pars after the turn to finish level with Miller on four under par, with the English duo of Matthew Cort and Ben Evans, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon one shot back on three under par.
Sullivan, who has been dividing his time between The European Tour and the Challenge Tour this season, said: “I started off with a bit of a bang, and even had a putt from six feet to make it four birdies in a row. I only really hit one bad shot all day, when I pulled my tee shot on the 14th. But I still got up and down well for bogey. So I played really solidly all day, and could’ve shot much lower than I did.
“This week’s all about sharpening my game for the Portugal Masters, which I should definitely get into, and then the Tour School at the end of the season. My year started well with a third at the South African Airways Open, but since then it’s been a frustrating time for me for one reason or another. With my category I often don’t know until a Monday where I’m going to be playing in any given week, so it’s been difficult to plan my schedule. But hopefully I can have a good week here to take some confidence to Portugal, then go to the Tour School in good form.”
Miller has largely turned his back on competition golf in order to concentrate full-time on his teaching career, but the Dutchman used his local knowledge to good effect when matching Sullivan’s round of 68.
He said: “I used to be affiliated to Houtrak and have practised there many times, so it’s a course I know very well. There were a few home fans watching me, so it was nice to put on a good show. I was particularly pleased with my putting today, because I made some long ones for birdie and holed out for par when I had to. It was a good day, and hopefully I’ve got three more in me. I’ve never finished in the top ten in a Challenge Tour event before, so it would be nice to start now! But I’m not going to put any pressure on myself – I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Hutcheon’s participation this week had been in doubt after he was forced to withdraw from the Kazakhstan Open with a bout of food poisoning. But with his place on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule in jeopardy – he currently lies 28th in the Challenge Tour Rankings – it is a case of needs must.
Hutcheon, who kept the bogeys off his card in a round of 69, said: “I’ve just got to battle through – I’ve got no choice really. I still don’t feel great and could’ve done with a rest this week, but with the position I’m in, that wasn’t really an option. I probably need a win now to get back onto The European Tour, because the last two weeks didn’t go according to plan. I got myself into a good position in China only to blow it with a shocking round on the final day, and then last week was a complete write-off. So I need a big week here – and I’ll also need to have seconds at dinner every night, because I’ve lost about a stone in weight!”
Cort posted four birdies in a round of 69 to finish in a tie for third place, whilst his compatriot Evans came home in 32 to join him on three under par. Hoey, who has slipped out of the top 20 in the Rankings after a run of indifferent results, showed signs of a return to form with a flawless round of 69.