It proved to be a sound opening for all three Irish contenders on The Challenge Tour in Denmark.
Dermot McElroy burst into some long awaited form as he fired a six-under-par 65 on day one of the Made in Denmark Challenge presented by Ejner Hessel.
Currently languishing in 197th place on the Road to Ras Al Kaimah rankings, the Ballymena professional returned an eagle and four birdies with just the one blemish to show for it to find himself in a tie for 4th after a productive opening.
Jonathan Caldwell enjoyed a fine start of his own as he signed for a two-under 69 to mark a sound round one card. The Clandeboye professional made three birdies along with one bogey for a no thrills but effective start that sees him in a share of 18th heading into day two.
Michael Hoey returned parity as his five birdies for the day were cancelled out by two doubles and a bogey, the experienced campaigner with it all to play for as he takes to his second round this morning.
At the summit, Danish duo Mark Flindt Haastrup and Joachim B. Hansen shone in their homeland as they edged into a tie for the lead alongside Switzerland’s Marco Iten at the end of round one.
Haastrup and Hansen grasped the home advantage as they shot seven-under-par rounds of 64 to set the pace at a sun-kissed Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort.
Hansen recorded his lowest opening round of the season as he goes in search of his second European Challenge Tour title in as many months, following his victory at the Turkish Airlines Open in April.
Fellow Dane Haastrup carded an incredible eight birdies in his first ten holes to give him a chance of his first victory on Europe’s top development Tour since the Dubliner Challenge ten years ago.
Iten, who has his sights set on a debut Challenge Tour victory, joined the pair at the top of the leaderboard as he also shot his lowest round of the season.
With his knowledge of the Backtee Course at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort, 34 year old Haastrup is excited by his chances.
“I’m ecstatic. It was a lot of fun out there,” he said. “The knowledge of this course means a lot because I’ve been in most of the good and bad places, so I know what to be careful of. A normal 30th place could turn into a 20th place and maybe a fifth you could turn into a third by knowing your way around the course.
“It feels crazy when you make so many birdies because nothing really goes wrong. I played really solid. I didn’t hit the longest drives but kept the ball in play. When I got in a little bit of trouble I hit a good shot and then made a long putt. Even when I missed the green on the tenth I chipped in, so I could only laugh with the other guys as well – it was a lot of fun.
“If I can shoot seven under par for every round then I think I’ll be okay, but I have to be realistic. It’s a really good round and I know that the course can bite you. I need to stay patient and play to my knowledge of the course and then we’ll see.”
Hansen will become the new leader on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah with a top 20 finish this week, and the 27 year old is on the right track, especially after he birdied six out of seven holes around the turn.
“That run was really important. I started my round on the tenth and from the 14th through to the second hole on my back nine it was a good stretch with the putter,” he said.
“It was great. I played decent and was quite solid today. I held a lot of good putts out there. I had a few mistakes, a few flyers from the semi rough that cost me a bit, but overall it was a great round.”
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