Stuart Manley (Getty Images)
Stuart Manley took inspiration from the recent performances of his stablemates Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry and Ross Fisher as he fired a flawless six under par 66 for a share of the first round lead with Robin Swane in the Telenet Trophy.
Welshman posted six birdies at Royal Waterloo, near Brussels, but Dutchman Swane picked up six shots in his last six holes, including pitching in with a nine iron from 144 yards for an eagle on the 14th, to tie at the top of the leaderboard.
Having retained his European Tour playing privileges for 2009 by progressing through qualifying school, Manley is playing his first European Challenge Tour event of the season after a relatively slow start to the campaign.
During that time he has watched his stablemates with Horizon Sports Management enjoy greater success, with Hoey winning his maiden title in Portugal and Gareth Maybin finishing runner up in South Africa, while Fisher was second in last week’s BMW PGA Championship seven days after Lowry won The 3 Irish Open as an amateur.
Manley feels their achievements can spur him on although the 30 year old remains dissatisfied with his overall game, despite not dropping a single shot in his opening round in Belgium.
“I’m happy with the start but my swing didn’t feel too good out there,” he said. “I also left a couple of shots out there although I was pleased with my putting overall.
“I’m using a new putter this week. I’ve not played for a couple of weeks so I’ve been practising with it and it worked well. I putted really nicely on Monday before I came out here.
“I’ve been struggling a bit this year with my long game and when that’s been right my putting has been off. The game just hasn’t gelled so far.
“I’ve watched what Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin have done and it has given me a boost as I played as an amateur with these guys so I know I can compete with them. With golf it is just about getting everything together at the right time.”
Swane’s thrilling finish certainly saw him pull together the components of his game as he surged through the field.
The 30 year old is relying on sponsors invitations after missing the cut at Qualifying School last November but he feels a strong finish is within his grasp.
“I’m staying with my uncle who lives 20 minutes away so I feel comfortable here,” he said. “I’ve played here many times as a junior and I shot a 68 in the first round two years ago so I know I can do well here , hopefully I can keep it going.
“I had a hiccup on the ninth and 11th holes when I dropped back to level par but it was some finish. I got a bit of a rush from that. On the 14th I saw the ball go past a referee but there was no reaction from him so it wasn’t until I got to the green that I saw it had gone in!”
François Calmels of France and Carlos Rodiles of Spain are both a shot behind the leaders after both posted an eagle – birdie finish.
For Calmels the round continued a fine week for him which began with his girlfriend Jade Schaeffer capturing her first Ladies European Tour win.
Frenchman Calmels was on hand last Sunday to give Schaeffer some advice as she won the HypoVereinsbank Ladies German Open and she is returning the favour this week by caddying for the 27 year old Parisian at Royal Waterloo.
“It was nice to have her on the bag and she gave me some good lines out there,” he said.