As Englishman Adam Gee secured a two shot lead heading into the final round at the D+D Real Czech Challenge Open, his compatriot Matt Ford equalled the course record - in part thanks to some friendly inspiration.
Ford shone the brightest on Saturday at Golf & Spa Kuneticka Hora, shooting a sparkling nine under par 63, a magnificent bogey-free effort that not only set the low round of the week so far but also equalled Maximilian Kieffer’s course record, set last year in the inaugural edition of the Czech Challenge, to get within touching distance of the lead with 18 holes to play.
One shot further back after an excellent round of his own, Ford’s room-mate and yet another Englishman, Chris Hanson signed for an eight under par 64 to also climb into the top ten.
Ford, who won a 54-hole south regional PGA event in his home country on Tuesday before travelling to the Czech Republic, made a flying start, holing 30-foot birdie putts at both the first and third holes before some fine approach play saw the 35 year old Swindon man pick up a further three shots in succession from the sixth.
A further pin-point approach to three feet at the 11th brought a sixth unanswered birdie of the day, while another gain at the 14th preceded the highlight of the round as Ford benefited from some friendly inspiration.
He revealed: “When I got to the 15th I knew I was seven under at the time and I saw the scoreboard guys putting someone on 15 holes at 12 under par and I thought ‘They’re a bit early putting me up for that’, but it was my room-mate Chris in front of me, cheeky bugger!
“I had a ten-footer for par and so I was telling myself ‘You’ve got to make this now to stay with him!’. We’ve been mates for around seven years now from the PGA EuroPro tour so it did drive me on.
“I could tell he had made birdie on the 16th so I wanted to match that then, too. I hit a nice drive there and then hit a cutty five-wood that pitched short right of the green that hopped to six feet and I managed to hole the eagle putt.”
Ford, whose once shot 59 during a Pro-Am at Tylney Park in England, could have gone to ten under but saw a 20-foot birdie come up short at the last but despite that he was obviously hugely satisfied with a fine day’s work.
“I’m very happy with that,” he continued. “I don’t really feel like I’ve hit it that well but even when I missed fairways I got it around well so definitely satisfied.
“I thought if I could post nine or ten under par today then it would put me right in the middle of it and hopefully that will be the case.”
Hanson, meanwhile, made an ideal start with birdie at the first after hitting a gap-wedge to a foot, and picked up further shots at the third and ninth.
It was on the back-nine that the Yorkshireman’s round really sprang to life, though, as a birdie at the long 11th was followed by four on the spin – including a 40-foot birdie putt at the 15th – as Hanson shot over 20 places up the third day leaderboard.
“Last time I was in this sort of position was in Columbia (at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic) over a year ago,” said Hanson, who topped the PGA EuroPro satellite tour in 2011.
“So to get back into contention again after only playing a few events this year is great. I’ve shot nine under on a EuroPro event at Mottram Hall in 2011 but that’s comfortably my best round on the Challenge Tour.”