Niall Kearney shot an opening four-under 68 at the Le Vaudreuil Challenge to ease his way into the top-10 at the end of day’s play at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, with Conor Purcell in hot pursuit and just one further back.
After a steady, four-par start, Dubliner Kearney got the ball rolling with back-to-back birdies on five and six and then reeled off eight more pars on the bounce as he’d reach the 15th at -2 for the day. The par on 14 would be his last, as he’d trade a bogey on 16 with birdies on 15, 17 and 18 to reach the clubhouse at -4 and just three off the lead.
Earlier in the day, starting on the back side, Conor Purcell birdied three of his opening nine holes to put himself in prime position at the turn, but bogeys on two and six threatened to derail the round. He’d respond in impressive fashion, however, making back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth holes before a closing par saw him sign for a 69 that leaves him tied for 21st and just one stroke behind Kearney.
Dermot McElroy is the next best placed of the Irish at -1 after the Ballymena man carded 15 pars, two birdies and one bogey and he lies T51 and will likely need to shoot another red-figured number in round two if he’s to make the cut.
At level-par, Jonathan Caldwell is just the wrong side of the cutline but has another 18 holes to make a move after an up-and-down day that saw him make two birdies and an eagle, but also two bogeys and a double.
Paul Dunne will need to shoot a low round if he’s to make it through to the weekend after opening with a four-over 76, while Ruaidhri McGee and Cormac Sharvin shot matching 78s and look set to miss out.
Christopher Feldborg fired an impressive bogey-free seven under par round of 65 to take the lead on day one. The Swede, who started his round at the tenth, made his first gain of the day on hole 12 before eagling the par five 14th. Another birdie at 17 followed as he reached the turn at four under par.
The 30-year-old then added three more birdies on the back nine to register his best round of the 2023 Road to Mallorca season and lead by one ahead of home favourite Grégory Bourdy and Englishman Jamie Rutherford who are in second on six under par.
“I played really good golf,” he said. “I was solid all the way through so I’m very happy. I’ve been playing well for a while now so I felt like something was coming my way and today it did.
“It would mean a lot to get my first win on the Challenge Tour, and getting to that next level is something I strive for. But I’m going to keep trying to do what I did today for the rest of the week and see where it leads.”
Feldborg finished in a tie for tenth place on the same course in 2022 following rounds of 70-69-71-68 and he believes the key to success at the Normandy venue is being aggressive at the right moments.
“I think this course really suits my game,” he said. “As long as I stay aggressive towards the pins and off the tee, I think it’s going to work out to be a pretty good week.
“I’m trying to keep the ball in play as best I can. The thick rough is heavy and it’s hard to get out of, so you need to keep your misses tight. When you have a chance though, you’ve got to be aggressive.”
Five players share fourth place on five under par, including Welsh duo Oliver Farr and Jack Davidson, Spaniard David Borda, Englishman Matt Ford and Italian Stefano Mazzoli.
Three-time DP World Tour winner, Brandon Stone from South Africa, and Road to Mallorca Number Four, Lorenzo Scalise from Italy are part of a 12-strong group one shot further back on four under par.