Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka launched his professional career with a stunning eight under par 63 to share the early first round lead with Scot Andrew McArthur in the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon.
Kaleka only joined the paid ranks on Monday after representing France in the European Amateur Team Championships at Conwy Golf Club in Wales last week and, having arrived in Lyon without a practice round, made an immediate impression with a stunning round at Golf du Gouverneur which included eight birdies and an eagle.
There is a long way to go but should he go on and win, he would join an exclusive group of players who have won on their Challenge Tour debuts, the two most recent being Edoardo Molinari in 2007 and Martin Kaymer a year earlier.
The 22 year old, from Orleans on the outskirts of Paris, said: “That was quite a start. I hit a lot of fairways and only missed one green, hit all the par fives in two and holed seven or eight very good putts. I didn’t expect to shoot so low in my first round as a professional and I will try and keep it going.”
Kaleka hopes to play a number of events before the European Tour Qualifying School where he will attempt to win his card. Among his amateur highlights was finishing second in the European Team Championships at Western Gailes in Scotland three years ago when France were denied by an Irish team which included Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, both now European Tour Champions.
Kaleka’s 63 established a new course record at Golf du Gouverneur, the course having undergone an number of changes since last year with four new tees, which was equalled by McArthur in the following group.
McArthur got his round going with an eagle three on the third and thereafter didn’t put a foot wrong as he added a further six birdies to join Kaleka at the top of the leaderboard.
“I just hit it lovely,” said the former Scottish Amateur Champion. “I didn’t hole many long putts, just hit it close all day. The greens are soft so you can fire the ball at the pins. I hit it quite well today so it is a step in the right direction.”
McArthur has made two top tens this season and lies 29th on the Challenge Tour Rankings. In summing up his season to date, he said: “I feel I have been playing well and not scoring. It’s hard as you keep coming off with 32 or 33 putts. And when I have got in a decent position I have thrown in a double and couldn’t get it going. But it is there for the taking today. Conditions were perfect today.
“Some of the Scots are starting to play well. George Murray had a good week last week and then Lloyd Saltman just qualified for The Open so things are going well. Another few good rounds and I’ll be fine.”
Denmark’s Anders Schmidt Hansen finished one behind on seven under par after a 64. “I holed good putts on the 12th and 13th so that was a good start having teed off on the tenth,” he said. “That got me going. Only bogey came with three putts on the 18th, but generally I holed a lot of good putts. The rough is tough but if you hit the fairways you have a chance on just about every hole. I have been playing well recently, top ten last week, but need some good tournaments and this is a good start.”
Among those on six under par was Australian Tony Carolan, who whirlwind tour of Europe over the last few weeks has including a lap around the famous Nuremberg Ring in Germany, a visit to snow capped mountains in Switzerland, watching the cyclists fly past in the Tour de France at Montpellier and savouring the French Open tennis at Roland Garros. On top of all that he finished fifth last week and is aiming for a top three in Lyon before heading home to Australia for a break.
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