Italian Marco Crespi and Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera kept their European Tour dreams alive at the Challenge Tour’s season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final as they shared the lead on seven under par after the opening day.
Both players signed for rounds of 64 to take a one shot lead into the second day at San Domenico Golf in southern Italy, where the top 45 players on the Challenge Tour Rankings are battling it out for the 21 European Tour cards on offer.
Both Crespi and Lorenzo-Vera are in need of a big result as they lie in 32nd and 38th place in the Rankings respectively.
Lorenzo-Vera, who won this tournament in 2007 after opening with a nine under par 62, came flying out of the blocks with three consecutive birdies.
He gained three more shots to reach the turn in six under par and he admitted that memories of that superb opening round five years ago came flooding back.
He could well have equalled it after a birdie at the tenth was followed by an eagle three at the 11th, but bogeys at the 12th and 13th halted his progress.
“That round in 2007 was in my head a lot today,” said Lorenzo-Vera, who won the Challenge Tour Rankings that year.
“I was thinking about the way I played that time. I like the way the greens roll and I feel very comfortable on them. I find them easy to read, for some reason.
“I was on the way to another 62 but I had a little wobble on the back nine. I played so well all day though. The only problem was that when I missed a shot, I couldn’t fix it. Every time I missed a shot, I dropped a shot.”
Crespi, meanwhile, is chasing his second win of the season and reached the turn in 29 shots despite a bogey at the first hole. Two more birdies followed in a flawless back nine.
“I played great from tee to green,” said Crespi. “My putting on the front nine was perfect. I holed a very long putt at the eighth - about 15 metres.
“I really enjoyed the day. There are a couple of very long holes and that is good for me. You just have to keep the ball on the fairway and play for the pins.
“With a good result here I can definitely climb up there. For the rest of the week I just have to try to keep it the same and play it shot by shot and then we will see what happens.”
Six players were tied for third, including Matteo Delpodio and Daniel Vancsik, who both eagled the 339-yard driveable par four 17th hole.
They were joined by Englishmen Gary Lockerbie, who is currently third in the Rankings, and Chris Lloyd, Dutchman Wil Besseling and Norway’s Espen Kofstad, while five players were a shot further back at five under par.
Rankings leader Kristoffer Broberg, who has won four Challenge Tour titles in six appearances this season, opened with a two under par 69.