18-year-old Nicolas Colsaerts, playing in his first event as a professional, leads the European Tour Qualifying School Finals by two shots at the halfway stage after a four under par 68 at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande.
The young Belgian, who only turned professional five days ago on his 18th birthday, leads from South African Desvonde Botes with the chasing pack a further three shots adrift after a tough blustery day on Spain's Coast del Sol.
Colsaerts made his move on the back nine on the course, his front nine, when after a missing three birdie opportunities in his first three holes he finally slotted one home from four feet on the 13th. He followed that with a birdie on the next hole and then finished his outward half with another brace of birdies on the 17th and 18th, holing a tricky 12 footer for an outward half of 32. Colsaerts dropped his first shot of the day on the first when his approach flew too high into the wind and plugged in the bunker short but two holes later he was back to four under for the round, holing a tricky downhill putt from five feet.
Another dropped shot followed on the fifth, his 14th, after his approach flew through the green but once again Colsaerts bounced back, chipping to six feet on the next to set up his sixth birdie of the day.
“I wasn’t expecting to be leading at halfway,” he said. “This is only my first event as a pro. I was just looking to keep grinding away and it is working well.”
Colsaerts, from Brussels, narrowly lost out to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings, after a play-off for the DEXIA-BIL Luxembourg Open earlier this season. He further underlined his pedigree when he qualified for the Tour School Finals by shooting 64 in the final round of Stage Two at Emporda.
Two shots further back is Botes, who shot a level par 72, to stay well on track to earning his Tour card. His four birdies were countered by four bogeys but the 26-year-old was happy with his position.
After an outward half of 35, one under par, England’s Shaun Webster dropped back with a 39 on the tougher front nine for a 54-hole total of 210, six under par. Also on that mark is Jorge Berendt. The Argentinian finished just one place short of retaining his European Tour card on the Volvo Order of Merit but looks to be heading straight back on Tour after taking up the services of Jose Coceres’ caddie for the week.
“He has saved me at least three shots a round,” said Berendt after his round of 72. “Things are going well.”
Also on six under is another Argentinian Gustavo Rojas and New Zealand’s Elliott Boult but their rounds paled when compared to the exploits of Tjaart Van der Walt. After an uneventful front nine, the South African birdied the 10th, holed a wedge from 115 yards for eagle on the 12th, birdied the 13th after his five iron tee shot came up just two inches short of the hole and then added a second eagle in the space of three holes by holing a 15 foot putt. His back nine of 30 gave him the best of the day 65 and moved him up to a share of third place.
The leaders move back to San Roque for the tomorrow’s fourth round after which a cut will be made with the top 75 players and ties qualifying for the final two rounds which will be held at San Roque. The leading 35 players and ties at the conclusion of the sixth round will earn their Tour cards for the 2001 season.