Rolling Stone rocks into Finnish lead

8/2/2013 6:21:00 PM
Brandon Stone ( Kilappa)  (EuropeanTour)
Brandon Stone ( Kilappa) (EuropeanTour)
South Africa’s Brandon Stone proved why he is regarded as one of the hottest young talents in world golf as the 20 year old rocketed into the lead midway through his Challenge Tour debut at the Finnish Challenge, thanks to a six under par 66.

The Pretoria native, who received the Phil Mickelson Award for best college freshman in the USA last year, has been spoken of in glowing terms after an amateur career which yielded an incredible 18 titles.

After such an impressive career in the non-paid ranks, Stone is taking to professional life like a duck to water, claiming a top ten finish in his debut on The European Tour as a pro at June’s BMW International Open, and he is now in the driving seat for a maiden title in Finland.

He began the second day a shot off the lead and, in more difficult conditions at Kytäjä Golf, in Hyvinkää, he carded another bogey-free round to move to 13 under par for the tournament, a shot clear of his playing partner for the opening two days, Lloyd Kennedy, and Swede Niklas Lemke.

Stone was thoroughly enjoying the friendly battle he and Kennedy, who carded a 65, were having on the course and is thrilled with his debut on the Challenge Tour.

“Lloyd holed out with a wedge at the second for birdie and I said to him jokingly, ‘if you wanted the honour on the tee that badly you could have just asked’”, said Stone. “Then at the next hole I chipped in for eagle and he said the same to me!

“The entire time we had a lot of fun out there, joking around. It makes it more enjoyable when you get along with the guys and it makes it a lot easier. I was pleased to play a good round but also just to play with nice guys.

“It never really came down to being a battle as such but we were just getting each other fired up and it resulted in two really good scores.

“There are still two more days but I have to go out there and play good golf because Lloyd and a lot of other good players are right behind me. But I feel really confident so I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing.”

Stone has been beaming all week at the splendid venue near Helsinki and he admitted that he is having the time of his life on the Challenge Tour so far.

“I'm having a blast out there,” he said. “The course is phenomenal, the weather has been great and the wind kicked up a little bit which made it even more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to coming back in the morning.”

Kennedy, meanwhile, has been enjoying himself for a number of weeks now, entering this week on the back of three top ten finishes on the trot and the Englishman is looking forward to vying for a maiden Challenge Tour title after a seven under par round moved him to a share of second place on 12 under.

“I holed my wedge from 140 yards at the second so that was a nice way to start my round,” he said. “It helps getting off to a quick start, especially when the scoring is as low as it is. It gives you a boost and something to build upon.

“I'm playing nicely and it’s a nice feeling playing golf at the moment.”

The joint overnight leader Lemke added a four under par 68 to his opening 64 to join Kennedy on 12 under, while Scotland’s Duncan Stewart was a shot further back on 11 under par as he also carded a 68.