A brilliant first round of eight under par saw Lloyd Saltman soar into the lead at the European Challenge Tour’s Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda.
The Scotsman made a perfect start to the week by birdieing the first three holes of the Jacques Lemans Golf Club in St. Veit-Längsee in southern Austria, to set-up “one of those days where you very much enjoy being on a golf course”.
Of the 156 players in the field, Saltman certainly had the most enjoyable day but he was not the only one.
Home hero Florian Praegant delighted the watching crowds with a fine 64 that saw him move to within one stroke of Saltman’s lead.
American Dodge Kemmer and Denmark’s Mark F Haastrup also took full advantage of the fine conditions and some pristine putting surfaces as both posted opening efforts of six under par 65, while the home challenge was further boosted by Roland Steiner and Florian Praegant who joined Frenchman Edouard Dubois, Ireland’s Peter O’Keefe and Englishman Billy Hemstock on five under.
But it was Saltman who stood at the top of the pile following his outstanding first round performance which saw the 27 year old compile an eagle, seven birdies and just a single dropped shot.
“It was a pretty good start – I played nicely today and managed to stick to the gameplan that I had put together in Wednesday so it was a very satisfying day,” said the Scot.
“I got off to a really fast start by birdieing the first three holes and then it was pretty simple from there. It was one of those days where you very much enjoy being on a golf course and those haven’t been coming along too often recently.
“I made some nice putts today and I have to say that the greens here are in magnificent shape – in my opinion they are the best we have putted on year on the Challenge Tour.
“You need to get off to a fast start out here and try to get into the tournament as quick as you possibly can because the scoring is always very low. Hopefully we can keep this going for the next three days and see where we are come Sunday.
Kemmer, a graduate of Stamford University, was pleased to become the latest American player to make an impression on the Challenge Tour, following the meteoric rise of his countryman Brooks Koepka, who secured automatic promotion to The European Tour after his third victory of the season at the Scottish Hydro Challenge.
“It was pretty solid out there today,” said Kemmer. “The greens are so pure here and that just gives you a lot of belief that if you hit the putts on the right lines then you are going to make a few of them.
“That was kind of the story of the day for me. I made a lot of mid-range putts from around 15 feet and when you make a few of those then it is always going to be the difference between an average day and a good one.”
Haastrup, meanwhile, was happy to get off to a fast start having endured a frustrating season so far.
“The form just hasn’t been there to be honest,” said the Dane, “so to get off to a good start today is really pleasing. I actually didn’t feel great on the first nine holes but managed to make a few birdies. Then on the back nine I started to feel more comfortable off the tee, but then my wedge play started to let me down.
“It was kind of one of those days, but if I look back at the round overall then I am pleased with how I have started because you really have to get on the leaderboard early at Challenge Tour events because the standard is so high now that even level par rounds mean you go backwards.”