Stuart Grehan, the only Irishman to make the cut, headed the wrong way on moving day as a costly final two holes saw the Tullamore man sign for a five-over 76 and slip to 35th on the leaderboard.
Scoring proved tough at Kaskáda Golf Resort in the Czech town of Brno, with just seven players shooting in the 60s and eight others posting red figures on the par-71 layout.
Needing a top-10 finish to play his way into next week’s Open de Bretagne, Grehan covered the opening nine in level par after offsetting a bogey at four with a birdie at seven, but the trickiest patch was yet to come and further bogeys at 10 and 11 moved him to +2 for the day.
Five consecutive pars followed, but a double bogey, bogey finish proved costly and he’d reach the clubhouse at -1 overall and five strokes outside the top 10.
Italian, Lorenzo Scalise who carded a one under par round of 70 on moving day, battled through the tough conditions to move into the lead by mixing four birdies with three bogeys to reach 11 under par for the week.
The 27-year-old had to contend with wind and rain on a challenging back nine to jump into a three shot lead before a bogey on the last cut his lead to two ahead of South African Pieter Moolman, who produced a four under par round of 67 to sit in second place.
Scalise is looking to become the third Italian to win on the Challenge Tour in the space of four weeks following the recent successes of Matteo Manassero and Andrea Pavan, and he’s hopeful he can do just that following three excellent days in the Czech Republic.
“The goal today was to stay alive and I did that so I’m happy,” he said. “I had a good start. I made a few more mistakes today but it was really hard out there and I recovered well.
“I had a great chip in on hole 12 for par, so that was really good. I just managed everything well. I hit a lot of great putts that didn’t go in so hopefully tomorrow they’ll drop, but I just need to do more of the same.
“It would mean a lot to win. It would feel very good, but I’m just going to keep working hard regardless of what happens. That’s the way I look at things. It would be a big pat on the back and a confidence boost for sure.”
Scalise has cut a relaxed figure on the course in Brno, and having already registered three top five finishes on the 2023 Road to Mallorca, he believes that same relaxed mindset will help get him over the line.
“The mental side of the game is very important for me,” he said. “I’ve been more frustrated on the golf course before, but I told my family, my girlfriend and my coaches that nothing will bother me, whatever happens. This is going to be my phrase for this week and for the rest of the season.
“I’m putting myself in good positions. This is where I want to be on a Saturday and Sunday, so whatever happens tomorrow, I’m going to be okay with it.”
Spaniard Manuel Elvira is in third place on eight under par following a one under par round of 70, with fellow Spaniard David Borda and German Allen John one shot further back on six under. Home favourite Michal Pospisil shares sixth with English duo Jack Senior and Gary Boyd on five under par, with Haraldur Magnus from Iceland, Nicolai Kristensen from Denmark and Australian Connor McKinney in ninth on four under par.