Niall Kearney and Jonathan Caldwell are nicely placed heading into the weekend of the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil.
The duo are locked at five-under, occupying a share of 16th place, but just four off the lead. Kearney, who started the day at the head of the Irish pack at -4, traded two birdies and two bogeys on his opening nine – the back nine – and added two more birdies on the front side, dropping just one on his way to a solid one-under 71.
Former Scandinavian Mixed champion Caldwell was among the early starters in round two, and after a level-par opener, knew that he’d have to shoot at least one-under to make it through to the weekend. After three pars to start, including one at the par-5 11th, he’d bogey the 13th and was staring a seventh successive missed cut in the face. But something clicked for the Clandeboye man as he’d make back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 before adding another at the 16th to make the turn at -2 for the day.
He’d add three more on the front side, including another back-to-back brace on six and seven to earn a weekend tee time alongside Kearney at 10:16 Irish time.
Unfortunately, they’re the only two of the seven Irish in the field to make it through to the third round. Most disappointed will be Conor Purcell who put himself in good position with an opening three-under 69 but slipped to a four-over 76 on day two to miss out by three, and he joins Dermot McElroy, Paul Dunne, Cormac Sharvin and Ruaidhri McGee on the plane home.
Hugo Townsend produced the round of the day to storm into the outright lead with a bogey-free eight-under-par round of 64 to lead by one shot ahead of the chasing pack which sees ten players separated by just two shots.
The 24-year-old, playing in only his second tournament as a professional, started his round on the tenth and birdied holes 11, 12 and 14, before an eagle at the par five 17th saw him climb into the top ten. Three consecutive birdies followed on the back nine as he signed for a nine under par total. At the top of a leaderboard for the first time in his professional career, Townsend admitted the experience is one that he’s enjoying.
“It’s fun learning out here and it’s fun to compete,” he said. “I’m seeing it as a learning experience and I’m hoping I can keep playing well. I’m going to keep doing the same things and will make sure I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.
“I’ll stay aggressive though. I’m normally pretty good off the tee so if I can keep that going, I’ll have a good chance.”
Townsend played as an amateur in the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed on the DP World Tour earlier this month where he finished 11th, turning professional the following week.
The Swede then teed it up in the Kaskáda Golf Challenge in the Czech Republic, before arriving in France where he feels his accuracy off the tee was rewarded on day two.
“I felt like the ball bounced my way,” he said. “It’s getting firm out there and I was having to get up and down and hole some good putts.
“Being accurate off the tee is key. If you miss the fairway there’s a chance you won’t find your ball. It’s deep rough and you’ve got to stay patient, hit good tee shots and hopefully hole some putts.”
Townsend tops a packed leaderboard, with South African Darren Fichardt, Welshman Oliver Farr and Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick sharing second on eight under par.
Local favourite Grégory Bourdy is one shot further back in fifth on seven under par alongside five others including Scotsman Darren Drysdale, Englishman Ashley Chesters, Italian Gregorio De Leo, Finland’s Oliver Lindell and overnight leader Christopher Feldborg from Sweden.