Brinson Paolini “rode a hot putter” to a tie for second place on the opening day of the Rolex Trophy on the European Challenge Tour.
Paolini, a contemporary of Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka who have both blazed a trail onto The European Tour, is the latest recruit from the conveyor belt of young American talent trying their luck on the Challenge Tour.
The Virginia Beach native had planned to retain his amateur status until the end of the year, but those plans changed when he received a sponsor’s invitation to the Swiss Challenge, where he finished runner-up before promptly following Koepka and Uihlein into the winners’ enclosure at Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.
It has been a meteoric rise for the Duke University graduate, who continued his scintillating form at the Rolex Trophy with a sparkling round of 65 to sit two shots off the pace, set by Australian Daniel Gaunt.
Paolini said: “My putter was so hot today. I holed a huge putt on the first and another on the last, and that was the story of the day really. It’s nice when days like that come long because they don’t happen that often, so I’ll definitely take it.
“I’m really enjoying myself on the Challenge Tour. It’s great to visit different cities and experience different cultures, and the level of competition is very high. You only have to look at the careers of Peter and Brooks to see what can be achieved on the Challenge Tour, and seeing what they have done has definitely inspired me.
“We tweet each other often and they’ve been really encouraging and wishing me luck, so hopefully I can join them on The European Tour next year. There’s still a long way to go, but so far so good. I can definitely see a lot more Americans coming over to play on the Challenge Tour, because it’s a great place to learn about the game – and about yourself.”
Meanwhile, Victor Riu continued his impressive campaign with a blistering round of 66 on the opening day in Geneva.
The Frenchman, who opened his Challenge Tour account with victory in Lucerne last month, is bidding for a second triumph on Swiss soil at this week’s elite €228,000 event.
The only blemish in Riu’s round was a bogey on the 14th hole at Golf de Genève, but the 28 year old rallied impressively with three birdies in his final four holes to finish day one on six under par.
He said: “It’s a good start. The weather was very nice, the course is in good condition and I took advantage. I was very solid on the greens, especially from two metres and in – I didn’t hole many long putts, but didn’t miss anything from close range either, which was pleasing.
“My win in Switzerland obviously gave me a lot of confidence, but then I started to struggle a little bit because my putting and my driving were letting me down. So it was good to have the week off last week to practice and get my game back in shape. I feel much better know, so I was confident of having a good week here.
“I always enjoy this week, it’s my third time I’ve played here and there’s always a nice atmosphere. The people are very friendly and the food in the evening is great, so it’s a week all the players look forward to.”