England’s Lee Slattery carded a stunning eight under par 64 to lead by one shot after the first round of the Telenet Trophy in Belgium.
The 31 year old edged ahead of Belgian amateur Pierre-Alexis Rolland, with three players – Swede Magnus Carlsson, Englishman Matt Haines and Belgian Pierre Relecom – another shot back at six under at Rinkven Golf Club on the outskirts of Antwerp.
Slattery, starting from the tenth tee, had five birdies on his front nine and three on the back, finishing with a tap in for a four at the par five ninth.
“I only missed one green all day and I holed out from the bunker,” said the Southport player. “I just got on a roll on the first nine and my confidence was high. I only hit the driver twice so I really got it going swinging the irons.
“I missed out on qualifying for the US Open on Monday by one shot but I played great. I’ve been due a good round and I think it’s as a result of all the hard work I’ve put in over the last few months. I’ve been practising for six hours a day trying to improve and it’s paying off.”
Slattery, whose only Challenge Tour victory came at the 2004 Telia Grand Prix, added: “The greens aren’t that quick so you could be quite aggressive with the putter, especially from 12 to 15 feet. It was nice to rattle a few in.”
Rolland, who returned from college in the United States on Tuesday to play in the tournament on a sponsor’s invite, had an eagle and five birdies in his impressive seven under par 65.
“I’m used to very long courses in America so perhaps it is a little easier to be playing a shorter course, but you have to be very accurate off the tee,” he said. “I just enjoyed it today and holed a few good putts.”
Another Belgium near the top of the leadboard was Relecom, who had to overcome the withdrawal of his caddie, who was knocked off his bike by a car last night and broke his foot, and a last-minute change of clubs after his were deemed to have illegal grooves.
“I just needed a few putts to go in and they did today,” said Relecom. “I had a lot of single putts. When I started I was not hitting it that well and I had a few good saves, then I holed a few good putts for birdie, then it all came together and I finished well.
“I should have birdied the 15th too but I three-putted. I was really enjoying myself out there. I got to play with Guillaume Watremez who is a very great friend of mine but we have never played together in a competitive round. And we had some people watching us towards the end. It was fun.”
He added: “I have to mention Uri Goldstein. Thankfully he is okay and just has a broken foot. He rang me at 5.45am this morning to tell me he was in hospital and couldn’t carry my bag.”
The leaderboard was peppered with unfamiliar names as several young players grasped the chance to shine.
Haines turned professional a fortnight ago and is playing his second Challenge Tour event after finishing 38th in the Mugello Tuscany Open last week.
“I only missed one fairway all round,” he said. “I had four birdies on the front nine which gave me a lot of confidence and the only difference on the back was that I didn’t hole as many putts. I’m delighted to have started my professional career so well.”
Defending champion Francois Calmels opened with a four under par 68, alongside Challenge Tour Rankings leader Robert Dinwiddie.