Englishman Adam Gee put the frustration of a lengthy injury lay-off firmly behind him to take a share of the first round lead in the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC.
The 31 year old Qualifying School graduate carded a four under par 67 in the morning session, which was later matched by his compatriot Simon Wakefield and Korea’s Sihwan Kim, who is playing his first season in Europe.
The trio are one shot clear of Spaniard Raul Quiros, South African Darren Fichardt and Scotsman Raymond Russell in the €500,000 tournament, which is dual-ranked between The European Tour and the Challenge Tour.
Gee was sidelined for most of last season after hip surgery, but he is slowly working his way back to form this year and was encouraged by his opening round at Aa Saint Omer Golf Club.
“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.”
Kim, a Challenge Tour player, was also thankful for some good fortune in his round, which included five birdies against one bogey.
“I missed in the right places,” said the 23 year old, who was born in Korea and moved to the USA when he was 12. “I wouldn’t say I was hitting the ball terribly, but I certainly wasn’t striping it. I got some lucky bounces here and there.
“I’ve been working hard on my putting. My speed has been a little off and my short putting has been horrendous in my last two or three events.
With the large prize fund which counts in both The Race to Dubai and the Challenge Tour Rankings, and a European Tour card until the end of 2013 for the winner, the Saint-Omer Open represents a Major Championship for players on the second tier.
“I know how important it is to do well in these big events,” Kim added. “Fortunately I played well in Madeira (Madeira Islands Open – Portugal) as well and finished 11th. But you have to take golf on a daily basis and I’ll try not to get ahead of myself. Hopefully I can have another good day tomorrow and be well placed for the weekend.”
Wakefield narrowly missed out on keeping his card on The European Tour last season, having won the Qualifying School Final Stage in 2010, but is delighted with his recent form.
“I made a great start with a four-footer at the first, a 25-footer at the second and then hit my approach into four feet at the third – although I missed that putt,” he said. “It levelled out and I made a couple of silly bogeys which pegged me back a bit, but I then made some good putts for par on the back nine and finished with two birdies in the last three holes.
“I’ve been playing well the last few weeks. I was second in Tenerife (Fred Olsen Challenge de España) and tenth in Belgium (Telenet Trophy) so the hard work is paying off. I moved to Ping at the start of the year and it is really working well for me. I’m just very happy with how everything is at the moment.
“I’ve decided I’m going to focus on the Challenge Tour this season and try to get my card back that way. The only exception might be the Austrian Open, as I lost in a play-off there last year.”