Michael Hoey and Cormac Sharvin gave a timely reminder of their class as both fired opening day 67s to claim a share of 4th place at the Challenge de España.
The Northern Irish duo have endured similarly frustrating seasons on the European Challenge Tour to date but at five under par after day one, they could be poised for a big week to change them all.
Sharvin’s round was a thing of beauty. Starting from the first with a birdie three, he added three more to be out in 32 at four under par. He only managed one more birdie coming in but a blemish free card has been at a premium this year and is most definitely something upon which to build.
Yet anything Cormac could do, Michael Hoey could do just as well. Back to back birdies on his front side to be out in 34, he added two more at 11 and 12 before icing the cake with a final hurrah, a birdie four on 18. It was another bogey-free assault on the leaderboard and Hoey too will be planning a big finish to an otherwise disappointing year, starting tomorrow.
Gary Hurley continued his mini form revival of late with a nice opening effort of two under par, 70, to lie in a tie for 43rd. Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee showed good resolve after a not so magnificent seven bogeys to get it home in two over par, 74, the same score as Chris Selfridge.
At the summit, Kalle Samooja continued an outstanding week for Finnish golf as his eight under par opening round of 64 gave him a two-shot lead in Spain.
Compatriot Tapio Pulkkanen claimed a maiden European Challenge Tour title at last week’s lucrative Kazakhstan Open, taking the Road to Oman Number One Ranking in the process, while at the European Tour’s British Masters presented by Sky Sports, Mikko Korhonen and Mikko Ilonen both lie one off the lead.
In good scoring conditions at Izki Golf, Samooja excelled, mixing nine birdies with a single bogey, and credited his friend Pulkkanen’s breakthrough performance in Almaty for inspiring him.
“Tapio’s win definitely inspires me,” said the 29 year old. “It inspires a lot of the Finnish players but especially me – I’ve known Tapio for a long time, I’ve seen him through all his ups and downs, so to watch him do as well as he did last week in such a big tournament, and secure his European Tour card, was really amazing.
“I was really happy for him and I tried to take something from that for this week and today it certainly seems to have helped.
“There have been younger players from Finland starting to come through and the Challenge Tour is great for giving them chances to play and to learn, and there will always be Finnish golfers coming through and moving on.
“An early afternoon start was what I was hoping for – the greens were running a little bit better and it was warmer than this morning, and then I holed a lot of good putts so I’m very pleased with where I am at the moment.
“I’ve had some better weeks than last year but then my bad weeks have been too bad. I’ve missed too many cuts and that’s no good, but the game is good enough and seeing Tapio win makes me know I can win as well.
“I don’t think there’s any extra pressure this week, just because it’s late in the season. Coming here, I felt my game was getting back to its best, and going low today was very nice so I hope I can keep going.
“I’m 80th in the Rankings so I do need to have a good week to continue my season and get into the final few tournaments and then anything can happen, but we’ll go day by day and see where I’m standing on Sunday.”
Trailing Samooja are South African Erik van Rooyen, continuing the fine form that earned him fourth place in Kazakhstan last week, and Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen, who both opened with rounds of 66.