Daniel Gaunt continued his strong run of form as the two-time Challenge Tour winner moved into the clubhouse lead midway through the opening day of the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open courtesy of a three under par opening round of 68.
The Australian-born Englishman carded four birdies and a sole bogey in a three under par front nine, before parring every hole on the way home to move into a one-shot lead over compatriot Andrew Marshall and Swedes Pontus Widegren and Joakim Lagergren.
Gaunt, who came close to a third victory on the second tier two weeks ago at the D+D Real Czech Challenge, finishing runner-up to Frenchman Thomas Linard, feels that he has got to grips with the tough challenge that Aa Saint Omer Golf Club presents.
“I've played really well today,” said the 35 year old, who has recently changed nationality from Australia to England. “It’s a challenge out there on this course. Some people don’t like coming back here but I do because it’s a great challenge and basically I feel like I've figured out how to play it.
“I dried up a little bit on the back nine but to come in leading the tournament feels good. You’ve got blind shots into the greens, putts that break 20 feet and greens where you could putt it off the surface or into a bunker – everything is just tough. You really have to place it well on the greens and if you don’t, good luck!
“The weather has been perfect today and it makes a bit of a change, because often it has been windy and rainy. The course is probably the best I've ever seen it since I've been coming here.
“It’s a little softer and playing a little longer. Holes like 15 and 18 where you have to hit a good drive now and you’re going in with four or five irons, whereas a couple of years ago we were hitting wedge into the last.
“You can go at the flags but you have to pick which ones you go for. My confidence is quite good at the moment. My short game is probably the key factor. I had been struggling with that for quite a while and I've worked so hard to get it right and get some confidence with it.
“It makes a big difference when you miss a green and get it up and down, rather than worrying whether you’re able to hit the green. I'm expecting another baby in September so life is good at the moment.”
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