At the halfway point in the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts there is some Gallic flair at the top end of the leaderboard in the shape of Joël Stalter.
Consecutive rounds of 67 have put the Frenchman well in touch with the leaders as he seeks to improve on his best career result of fifth in last year’s Belgium Challenge Open.
The 22 year old may not be a name all that familiar to fans of the European Challenge Tour, but after graduating from the University of California last June, Stalter is pleased by the progress he has made in his first year as a professional.
“I feel I’ve improved so much in just a year on this tour,” he said. “I’ve made pretty much every cut but I haven’t converted them into finishes yet.
“Shooting level par over the weekend isn’t enough on this tour, and I’ve had too many tournaments where I’ve played pretty well but been left behind when it’s mattered.
“But it’s a great learning curve, almost like university for a professional golfer, so I hope I’m learning the lessons and hopefully this weekend will be a good one.
The Scottish Hydro Challenge is the biggest tournament of the year so far, so it's great to be here
“I played really well, I could easily have finished six or seven under had I finished the round better. Instead it’s four under, but that could easily have been two, so I’m in a good spot for the weekend, and there’s a lot of golf still to play.
“It’s the biggest tournament of the year so far, so it’s great to be here.”
Stalter arrived in Scotland this week on the back of winning the French Open qualifier on Monday and is looking forward to testing himself on The European Tour next weekend – a gap he is confident of bridging soon.
“Winning the qualifier has given me some confidence and momentum coming in here and I’ve played really well since I arrived,” he said.
“I’m eight under for the tournament and it felt really easy, I gave myself a lot of opportunities, so I’ve got to just keep doing that this weekend and take it on to the French Open next week.
“This tour is great because it really develops your game and you learn so much so quickly, you travel a lot, it shows you the lifestyle.
“The level is quite close to The European Tour now as well. You’ve got the top 20 or 30 guys on tour but between the rest, a week like this is very close to them.
“Next week at the French Open, if you take out Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and those guys the field is very similar. The middle ground is similar, though the money is very different!”