Denmark’s Andreas Hartø stands on the brink of becoming the first amateur to win on the European Challenge Tour since 2004 - and only the fourth in history - at the ECCO Tour Championship in Germany.
The 22 year old from Copenhagen, who received an invite into the tournament, fired a third round 70 for a nine under par total of 210 to share the 54-hole lead with Sweden’s Oscar Floren and Stuart Manley of Wales.
Now Hartø, who is studying communications at Lamar University in Texas, can follow in the footsteps of Finland’s Roope Kakko, who was the last amateur to triumph at the Finnish Open six years ago.
Hartø looked up at the leaderboard in awe after his outstanding performance at Green Eagle Golf Club and admitted: “I never saw this coming! It’s ridiculous. It is a special moment to be sharing the lead in a professional tournament with one round to go and I am going to enjoy it.
“Right now, I don’t really want to think about it. All I know is that I looked at the leaderboard on the 16th and saw I was two shots clear of the field. I couldn’t believe my eyes and my mouth was dry playing the last few holes. I was a bit nervous and topped my second shot at the 16th and made bogey.”
Hartø, who is planning to turn professional at some stage, changed his travel plans and his putting grip with this week in mind – and both options have turned out well.
He added: “I was due to return to the States this week to play in an event in Seattle but opted to come to Germany when I knew I was in the field. I also tried a new putting grip and I’ve managed to make most of the vital ones during the first three rounds.”
The 6ft 4in amateur will play in the final group with Floren and Manley, who both shot two under par 71s to join Hartø at the head of affairs.
Manley, currently 29th on the Challenge Tour Rankings, is banking on a big pay day on Sunday to help break into the top 20 who will gain access to The European Tour in 2011. With a first prize of €28,800 at stake – and Hartø not eligible for any of it – the 31 year old from Aberdare can do his hopes a power of good.
“That’s what we are here for – to get back onto The European Tour” said the Welshman. “It would be fantastic to win here and go to the Challenge Tour event in Wales next week with the trophy under my arm. It would give me a huge amount of confidence for the rest of the season.”
Floren is similarly intent on improving his Ranking from 15th but knows that Hartø cannot be discounted, despite his amateur status. He commented: “I saw him play at The Princess event in Sweden and he was pretty impressive. He looks a good prospect and it will be fun with an amateur in the shake-up.”
The biggest mover of the day was Spaniard, Alvaro Velasco, whose five under par 68 carried him into outright fourth place thanks to a sprinkling of seven birdies on his card, spoiled only by the blot of a double bogey six at the 13th.