Amateur hotshot Julien Brun moved into pole position to land a Challenge Tour title on his debut after surging to the top of the leaderboard on the third day of the ALLIANZ Golf Open Toulouse Metropole.
Brun is currently on a scholarship at Texas Christian University, near Dallas, but his trip across the Atlantic to compete in this week’s €160,000 event is looking like a very worthwhile exercise after the 20 year old from Antibes signed for a round of 67 for the third successive day.
That moved Brun – who is bidding to emulate the feat of his friend Romain Wattel, winner of the ALLIANZ Europen Strasbourg as an amateur in 2010 – to 12 under par.
Matteo Delpodio is one shot back on 11 under par after the Italian again recovered from a sluggish start to card a round of 70, with his two playing partners, Dane Joachim B Hansen and England’s Simon Wakefield, a further stroke behind after both men posted level par rounds of 71.
Brun, followed by a sizeable crowd which included his father Christophe and grandfather Claude, got off to the perfect start, almost holing his wedge approach to the first hole for a tap-in birdie.
The highlight of his day was an eagle three at the fifth hole, where he hit his three-iron to three feet, before following up with a birdie at the seventh to grab the outright lead from Delpodio, who turned in three over par 38.
The back nine was a more steady affair for Brun, who parred in to set up the very real prospect of becoming only the sixth amateur to triumph on the Challenge Tour.
He said: “My ball-striking today was great, I made very solid contact all day, so that was probably the most pleasing thing. It was great to play well at home, because I don’t get often the chance to play in France these days. It was very nice to have a crowd following me, I really enjoyed myself today.
“I’m sure I will be a little nervous playing in the final group on the last day. You can’t help but think about it, but it’s why we play the game. If I play the way I have so far, that’s all I can do. There’s more pressure on the other guys because they’re playing for money and playing for a place on The European Tour. But if you’ve got a chance to win you’re going to feel pressure – I’m sure it’ll be a great experience though.”
Delpodio is in desperate need of a maiden victory to climb the Rankings from his current position of 85th, but the Italian is determined not to force the issue after being guilty of trying too hard in previous weeks.
He said: “On the front nine I made some really stupid mistakes, like I did yesterday. But I knew I was playing well, so I was always confident of coming back and in the end that’s what happened on the back nine. I need to get off to a faster start on the final day, because I can’t keep fighting back from bad positions. I just need to give myself lots of opportunities, because I’m putting pretty well so I feel confident of taking my chances. I just need to let things happen.
“I don’t know anything about Julien, but he’s obviously a very good player. I’m sure the crowd will be cheering for him, but they were also very nice to me today, so I’m sure they’ll be fair. It’s unusual to have such good support outside your home country, but I have to give them credit today, because they were excellent.”
Hansen had appeared on course to join Delpodio in a share of second place, only to close with a card-wrecking double bogey after finding the lake guarding the 18th green with his tee shot.
Wakefield also had a double bogey on his card, at the par five fifth, but rallied in impressive fashion with two late birdies to remain in contention to capture his second Challenge Tour title.