Daan Huizing was the talk of the opening day at Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge as he flirted with history en route to a sumptuous round of 61 in France.
In just his sixth start on the Challenge Tour, the Dutchman was ten under par through 15 holes at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, as he attempted to become only the second man in Challenge Tour history to shoot 59.
A birdie at the seventh, his 16th, was the ideal start to the final trio of holes as he neared history, but a couple of pars to finish still saw him sign for the lowest round of the season so far, a new course record, and a two stroke advantage over Englishman Jason Barnes.
Adrien Mörk, who had not played on the Challenge Tour in three years but carded an opening 69 on Thursday, therefore remains the only man to break 60 on the circuit. In 2006 he fired a second round 59 en route to the Tikida Hotels Agadir Moroccan Classic title, and a rare appearance from the Frenchman almost proved a good omen for Huizing.
Needless to say though, the Dutchman was extremely happy with his opening salvo in France, and was fully aware of how close he had come to history.
“Of course I knew I was going low,” admitted Huizing. “That 59 was in my mind a little bit, but I tried to block it out as I had a similar situation earlier in the year, where I was going really low after 13 holes and then started thinking about shooting 59. That’s when you know you are not focused on the task anymore, so I tried to keep focused on one shot at a time, what I needed to do on the course, and it almost worked out.
“I really like the challenge of a course like this as you know guys are going to shoot eight or nine under, so when you are only six under you know it’s not enough and you have to keep going. That’s what I like about the Challenge Tour, there is just so much more competition, it gets you a lot sharper and gives you good incentive to work hard at home.
“That spurs me on for sure, as I have played well the last three tournaments, but I wasn’t getting close to winning. That pushes you on and I did some good work last week, so now I just have to make sure I keep doing the same thing and see where it ends up in the end.”
Huizing is two strokes clear of Jason Barnes, who himself went bogey free on Thursday morning to shoot the lowest round of his Challenge Tour career, a nine under par 63.
The Englishman achieved his best finish at the Barclays Kenya Open last season, where he finished in a tie for seventh, and he will be looking to improve on that in France after a fantastic start.
“It is all a bit of a blur actually,” said Barnes. “It was just all really solid. It is quite an easy golf course, I think everyone would admit it is fairly short, in good condition, and soft, but I just played really nicely.
“I have felt it building for a while now, but it is obviously difficult to know if you are going to do it, but once I started going I got through eight holes in four under, birdied the ninth, and then really pressed on the back nine as I knew I could get a low one today.
“I like to make a lot of birdies, but I also like to have a few bogeys as well, and today was a bogey free round so as long as I can keep the bogeys off the card then I think I can keep going low.”
Barnes is a shot clear of compatriot Andrew Johnston, who carded an opening 64 on Thursday, and is tied alongside Karnten Golf Open presented by Mazda winner Dylan Frittelli, who is looking to add more silverware this season after a maiden victory last month.
“The win a few weeks ago has given me a target,” explained the South African. “To get two more wins in the next ten or so events is definitely possible, so today was a good start, and hopefully we can keep that going this week.
“I prefer playing tough courses, but it seemed to work OK today, and hopefully I can just keep the birdies coming. If you’re not making birdies out there then you’re going backwards compared to the field, so hopefully I can keep them coming.”
Alongside Frittelli and Johnstone in a tie for third are the three leading Frenchmen, François Calmels, who is looking for a third win of 2013 after victories at the Challenge de Madrid and D+D Real Czech Challenge Open earlier in the year, with Edouard Espana and Lionel Weber.
José-Filipe Lima is in eighth place a shot further back at seven under par, as he looks to build on his fifth place in this season's Challenge Tour Ranking. He's in a tie with Korea's Sihwan Kim and another Frenchman, Raphael Marguery.
A whole host of top talent are queuing up behind in a tie for 11th, one of which is Norway's Knut Borsheim, who had a share of the 54 hole lead at the Mugello Tuscany Open last week en route to a second place finish behind Marco Crespi.