Australian Daniel Gaunt is banking on a quick-fire return to The European Tour after a less ‘gung-ho’ attitude carried him into a tie for the first round lead in the ECCO Tour Championship on the European Challenge Tour.
Gaunt, who shares top spot with Welshman Kyron Sullivan and Swede Oscar Floren on 67, six under par at Green Eagle Golf Club near Hamburg, managed to curb his enthusiasm to great effect by winning the recent English Challenge at Stoke-by-Nayland last month.
That success lifted the 31 year old from nowhere to 34th on the Challenge Tour Rankings, but a second victory this week would push Gaunt closer to regaining his card on the main Tour.
He said: “I was always a pretty aggressive player but I’ve worked really hard on my course management and being more patient. I’ve come to realise that there is a time and a place to take on a shot and when to err on the side of caution.
“It seemed to pay off in the English Challenge and I think my attitude and approach were good today, despite two silly dropped shots at the 14th and 16th. Hopefully now I can put in a high finish this week and try to get inside the top 15 on the Rankings, which is the main goal at the moment.”
Sullivan and Floren matched Gaunt’s 67 over the formidable North Course measuring just under 7900 yards to ensure the leading trio stayed ahead of Danish amateur Andreas Hartø on 68 with another Welshman, Manley, sharing fifth place alongside Scotland’s Craig Lee and Denmark’s Marius Thorp on 69.
Currently 131st on the Challenge Tour Rankings, Sullivan chipped in at the first to set the ball rolling and picked up a further six shots – dropping only one at the 705 yard 16th – as he set the clubhouse target.
“At this stage of the season, I need to be looking at some high finishes to ensure I get into the Kazakhstan Open in a few weeks time and to make certain I climb into the top 100 in the Rankings so that I won’t have to go to Stage One of the Qualifying School” he said.
Sullivan, who will be competing in next week’s SWALEC Wales Challenge on home turf, has taken a few weeks break from the Challenge Tour to recapture his game and his appetite.
He added: “Sometimes you need to take a step backwards in order to move forwards. I think I was trying too hard and I enjoyed playing a couple of events on the EuroPro Tour to try to get back into the groove. Hopefully it has worked!”
Floren, currently 15th on the Rankings, blitzed the front nine – his inward half – at Green Eagle in 30 blows to construct a promising start to his tournament. The Swede was helped by an eagle and three birdies to close and said: “I’ve been in contention a few times and didn’t finish it off. If I keep doing the right things hopefully it will happen.”