Sam Hutsby maintained his lead in the Qualifying School Final Stage as he followed up his stunning opening round of 60 with a three under par 69 on the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort, leaving him two shots clear of English compatriot Andy Sullivan.
The 23 year old had three birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on the longer of the two courses to reach 13 under par for the tournament, while Sullivan was hot on his heels after carding a six under par 66 on the Stadium Course to move to 11 under.
Hutsby admitted he was surprised to card such a good score on what he felt was an average day on the course.
”I’m absolutely chuffed to bits with a 69 because I didn’t feel like I played that well,” said the Lee-on-Solent player, who finished second at the 2009 Qualifying School Final Stage. “But I've been trying to improve my B-game so when I'm not quite at the races, I’m just trying to eliminate the double-bogeys, so it’s really pleasing. My short game was really tidy today which kept me in it.”
Having started on the tenth tee, Hutsby stormed into a commanding lead with an eagle at the 15th, but dropped shots at the 16th and 18th. He recovered with two birdies on the way home, however, and was delighted with his position.
“It was a bit of a tough day but I am happy,” said the former Walker Cup player, who finished 48th in the Challenge Tour Rankings this year. “After yesterday it was always going to be hard to match that on a tougher course so I’m in a good position.
“It’s a long week, though. Obviously we only do this once a year - play six rounds in a row and two practice rounds - so it’s mentally tough as well as the fitness aspect. I've worked hard on that so coming down the last few holes I hit some good shots, so it’s nice to get myself in a comfortable position with four rounds to go.”
Sullivan impressed with the joint-lowest round on the Stadium Course so far this week, having opened with a 65 on the Tour course in round one.
The 25 year old was part of Great Britain and Ireland’s victorious Walker Cup team earlier this year, turning professional soon after and making it through last week’s Qualifying School Second Stage.
“It’s just nice to be playing well and seeing the ball go in the hole,” said Sullivan. “It’s a bit different from last week, when I left it until the last minute to get through.
“I just seemed to steadily make a few birdies. I felt confident coming here after the way I played last week in the Second Stage. I just didn’t hole enough putts, but in the last round last week I started to hole a few putts and I came into this week with a bit more confidence.”
Peter Gustafsson and David McKenzie were two shots further back on nine under as the Swede equalled the best round of the day on the Tour course with a seven under par 63.
He said: “After changing my coach about a month and a half ago it’s been improving my game. It has been quite a big change in the swing, but it’s been better in terms of ball-striking so every time I trust it, it goes perfectly. The putter is very hot too so it’s been a great day for me.”
Seven players were in a share of fifth place, including Lloyd Kennedy, who holed out from 216 yards for an eagle at the par four fourth hole on the way to a four under par 66 on the Tour course.
Three-time European Tour champion Nick Dougherty finished the day on one over par after a 73 on the Stadium course, while last year’s winner, Simon Wakefield, was three over par for the tournament after a two over par 74 on the Stadium Course.