Adam Gee put the frustration of a lengthy injury lay-off firmly behind him as he set the pace on the first day of the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC.
The Englishman carded a four under par 67 to lead by one at Aa Saint-Omer Golf Club, equalling the lowest round he has had this year from five European Tour appearances.
Gee was sidelined for most of last season after hip surgery, but he managed to earn a European Tour card at the Qualifying School in December and is slowly working his way back to form this year.
“It’s a good start,” said the 31 year old, who finished with back-to-back birdies. “I had some good fortune today – I hit the flag on the 17th and it went in, and on the 18th I hit a good shot from a bad lie and it ran up nicely to the hole.
“It’s a quirky golf course and you get good breaks and bad breaks. Sometimes good shots go badly and bad shots turn out well. I managed to get the most out of the good stuff today.
“Last year was very frustrating. I was either playing badly or I was injured. The cartilage between two bones in my hip was torn, so I had surgery to repair it. But everyone gets injured, that’s just the way it goes. Luckily I had some great advice and good help from the right people and it’s fine now.”
The €500,000 tournament is dual-ranked with the European Challenge Tour, and one player from the second tier making the most of the opportunity was Spaniard Raul Quiros, who signed for a three under par 68.
“I hit a lot of greens, but I was never really close to the hole,” said Quiros. “It’s a course where you have to be sensible a lot of the time and just go for the middle of the green.
“I missed three or four short putts but I holed some long ones, so overall I’m pretty happy. It’s always nice to finish with a birdie too.
“It’s my first time here and I found the course very tough, so I’m very pleased with that score. I’ve not been hitting the ball that well recently, but last week I was at home and did a lot of practice with my coach and today I hit it straight, so something is working.”
Steven Tiley, who hit the headlines during the The Open Championship in 2010 when he carded a first round 66, was one of four players from the morning groups on two under.
He said: “I took a week off last week to practise. I played Belgium (Telenet Trophy) and Tenerife (Fred Olsen Challenge de España) and wasn’t playing too badly, but I wanted to work really hard on my short game. I’m not hitting it that great, but I’m just getting it round, which is what you’ve got to do on this course – just keep it in play.”
American Scott Pinckney, another player who earned his playing rights at the Qualifying School late last year, also carded a two under 70.
“I hit a lot of fairways and greens today,” said the 23 year old. “This course is tricky around the greens so you need to put it in the right spot. It was an easy, stress-free round which was nice.
“It’s the first time I’ve played here and I’m enjoying it. It makes you think and I like courses like that. It can be very tricky and I can see why some people get mad and frustrated around these greens.
“I’ve been struggling lately but this week I have my coach over here and he’s on the bag this week. It’s good to see him and we’ve been working on some good stuff. I’m putting well so the whole game feels nice.”