A flying start for Jean Hugo saw the South African climb into a tie for the lead on the embryonic leaderboard during the first round of the Qualifying School Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort in northern Spain.
On a pleasant but breezy opening morning to the gruelling six-round marathon test that sees 156 competitors from around the globe battle it out for one of the 25 European Tour cards for the 2013 season on offer in Girona, Hugo, who agonisingly missed out on qualification from the 2011 finals by just one shot, started with an eagle three at the tenth of the Tour course to immediately banish the sour memories of last year’s denouement.
Hugo gained a further shot with a birdie at the par four 15th to reach the turn in 32 blows and take an early share of first place on three under par alongside Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg and England’s David Griffiths.
Playing the Stadium course – traditionally regarded as the tougher of the two layouts at PGA Catalunya Resort – Lundberg carded four birdies and a bogey over his opening nine while Griffiths, a fourth alternate from the Second Stage at Las Colinas, also made a quartet of birdies and just the one drop over a front nine of 32 on the Tour course.
There were notable names in the six-man group one shot off the lead in the early stages of the action at the Final Stage, as Welshman Bradley Dredge – twice a winner on The European Tour, South Africa’s Tjaart van der Walt, who finished just €694 away from retaining his playing privileges after finishing 120th in The Race to Dubai, Rhys Davies and George Murray – among others – made it to two under par as the morning progressed.