Gary Stal took control of the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda by adding a second round 67 to his opening 65 to post a formidable 12 under par second round lead.
The young Frenchman, who won the French Amateur championship last year before winning his first title as a professional in the INTERNATIONAUX de France earlier this season, carded six birdies and just a single dropped shot during his second round over the Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim in south east Austria.
Stal’s outstanding level of performance over the first two rounds saw him establish a one stroke lead over England’s Gary Lockerbie, whose fine finish of two birdies in his closing three holes propelled him out of the chasing pack on nine under par.
Germany’s Max Kieffer, currently fifth in the Challenge Tour Rankings, posted the lowest score of the day, a brilliant 64 to rise to nine under for the tournament, alongside his countryman Max Glauert, England’s Daniel Brooks, first round leader Jeppe Huldahl of Denmark and the Spaniard Jordi Garcia Pinto.
But the day belonged to the young Frenchman at the top of the leaderboard, who is making just his fourth appearance on the Challenge Tour.
“I am very pleased with that,” said Stal. “It was important to try and continue the good scoring from yesterday and I managed to do that today.
“I played well again and made some important putts at the right time. I feel very comfortable on this golf course and the greens are superb. It is a great course to play and I think it suits my game.
“I am here to try and win the tournament and that is what I will try to do over the weekend. I have not been a professional for long, but I won the French Championship earlier this year in Hossegor and that has given me a lot of confidence.
“That was my first win as a professional but now I would like to try and win more, especially on the Challenge Tour because there are so many opportunities that open for you if you can win on this Tour.”
Stal will face the biggest test of his embryonic professional career this weekend with a talented field chasing him down.
Lockerbie will lead the charge after his second round 66, and the Englishman is relishing the opportunity of being in contention.
“I’m delighted to be up there,” said Lockerbie. “I played well out there today and I have to say that it is just a pleasure to play golf on this golf course.
“I think the greens here are among the best we have ever played on the Challenge Tour and to be putting on surfaces like these gives you a lot of confidence because they are so pure that they leave you in no doubt as to how good your putting is.
“If you miss a putt here it is because you have misread it; and if you make the putts here, as I managed to do a bit today, then it just breeds more and more confidence as the tournament progresses.”
Roland Steiner’s three under par 69 moved the Austrian to five under par, and he will lead a further five Austrians into weekend battle, including talented young amateur Lukas Nemecz, who lies on four under par after a second round 72.