Charles-Edouard Russo took inspiration from his best friend François Calmels’ victory last week to shoot a seven under par 64 in the first round of the Montecchia Golf Open presented by POLAROID before thunderstorms interrupted play.
All but five of the afternoon groups will have to return on Friday morning to complete round one, but Frenchman Russo was safely in the clubhouse with a one-shot lead after carding eight birdies and one bogey earlier in the day at Golf Club della Montecchia near Venice.
Northern Ireland’s Gareth Shaw and Danes Lucas Bjerregaard and Mark Haastrup all signed for six under par 65s, while Irishman Simon Thornton was also six under with three holes to play.
Russo, playing on a sponsor’s invitation in the €160,000 event, said: “François is like a brother to me and it was fantastic to see him win the Challenge de Madrid last week. We’ve been friends since we were in the same class at school as ten year olds and now we live very close to each other.
“It has inspired me, although I’ve been playing very well for the last month and a half now. I came third in the French National PGA Championship, which helped me get an invite here.
“Hopefully I can continue to be motivated by what François did and carry on playing like this.”
Haastrup called his six under par 65 one of the best rounds he has played on the Challenge Tour, signalling a welcome return to form.
“It has been a long time since I had a round as good as that,” said the 29 year old. “To be honest I’ve been struggling recently and didn’t hit it very well for the first eight holes, but my putting kept me in it. Then on the back nine I improved a lot and was able to make some birdies – again from excellent putting.
“The course is in great shape. If I can keep playing and putting as well as this it will be a good week.”
Bjerregaard was delighted that he was able to convert his good progress on the practice range to a promising score, saying: “I’m excited about the way my swing has been going, but I haven’t played much competitive golf yet this season – only a Nordic League event in Spain and the Barclays Kenya Open in March. So I’m pleased I was able to take some good form out on the course.
“I hit a lot of fairways, which is important on this course as it’s very difficult to get out of the rough. I hit some good wedge shots too – there are a lot of them as it’s a pretty short track."
Shaw added: “I played the last ten holes in six under par, so I got on a good run and it was nice to finish just before the storm hit. It’s the first round in the 60s for me this year so I’m very happy.”
Three time European Tour winner struggled to a seven over par 78, while 2008 Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson opened with a one over par 72.