Worksop’s Neil Cheetham was one of seven golfers sharing the lead after the first round of the Aa St Omer Open having carded a three-under-par 68 on the undulating course in northern France.
The 37-year-old, a friend of Lee Westwood as the pair hail from the same club, birdied his last two holes to force himself into contention early on and on a blustery day no-one could better his score.
Having turned in 33, he dropped a shot at the 12th after driving behind a tree and another at the 13th but almost claimed those back in one stroke as his tee shot at the 187-yard penultimate hole finished six inches from the flag.
A 12-foot putt at the last increased the congestion at the top of the leaderboard but Cheetham was more than satisfied with his morning’s work in the co-sanctioned event between the European and Challenge Tours.
“It was very tricky today. If you get anything around three or four under then it is a good score and I’m very happy to start off with,” he said.
“I played very solidly, hit the ball great off the tee in all fairness and did miss a few putts but the greens are really tough here – they are really difficult to read, especially the two or three-footers.
“I like the course, I enjoy it. Most players when they come here get frustrated with it because it is a frustrating golf course but if you can keep mentally intact and understand you are going to make a few bogeys, but there are birdie chances out there, you can do all right.”
By contrast South African Hennie Otto, the second-highest player in the world rankings present at 294th, three-putted his last two greens to finish bogey-bogey and surrender what would have been an outright lead at five under.
He was joined at the top by Frenchman Raphael Eyraud, Swedish duo Per G Nyman - not to be confused with the other Per Nyman – and Martin Erlandsson, Belgium’s Julien Clement and Iceland’s Birgir Hafthorsson.
Erlandsson, at 50th the highest-placed player on the European Order of Merit present this week, finished joint second in the Celtic Manor Wales Open earlier this month.
With its rolling hills this course is very similar to the one in Wales and the Swede, 354th in the world, was happy to have a share of the lead.
“You have to be on the right side of the fairway to get to the greens but my putting was very good today,” he said.
The group one shot back contains English quartet Philip Archer, Jamie Little, Jamie Elson and James Hepworth and also Welshman Craig Williams.