John Catlin carded a flawless six under par round of 65 to charge into an early lead at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at Lumine Golf Club.
Catlin came into the event less than a week after securing his fourth Asian Tour victory in Thailand and continued in the same form, recording six birdies and 12 pars on the Lakes Course as he looks to secure an immediate return to the European Tour.
The 29-year-old admitted he relished the opportunity to compete in Europe for the first time this season, with his best finish a tie for 12th at Made in Denmark presented by FREJA, but knows there is still a long way to go before he seals his 2020 playing rights in the six-round contest in Tarragona.
He will begin day two with a one-shot advantage over a group of six players on five under par, which includes 2018 Final Stage joint-champion Alejandro Cañizares, Dane Benjamin Poke, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Sami Valimaki from Finland, England’s Toby Tree and Italian Lorenzo Scalise.
Meanwhile Robin Sciot-Siegrist, who narrowly missed out on his European Tour card after finishing 16th at the Challenge Tour Grand Final last week, German Hurly Long and Italian Aron Zemmer, who won the European Tour Qualifying School Second Stage event at Club de Golf Bonmont, sit one shot further back on four under par.
Catlin returns to action on the Hills Course at 9:50am local time, with Cañizares also continuing his bid to regain his European Tour card on the Hills Course at 10:20am.
John Catlin: “It’s only one of six rounds and it’s definitely a nice way to start but there’s still a long way to go. I remember liking this track at last year’s event and the Hills was the course I definitely struggled on, so to come out and take full advantage of that was a good way to start.
“Winning my fourth title on the Asian Tour and to win in Thailand where I’ve been living for the past three years was a great feeling. I know if I can take care of what I can take care of then I’ve got every chance of contending and I’ve given myself the best chance possible.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic to compete in Europe. It’s made me a better golfer for sure. You can see the difference coming from the Asian Tour to the European Tour which is the next step up and the margin of error is just that much smaller.”
Robin Sciot-Siegrist: “I’m really happy with what I did at the Challenge Tour Grand Final. I believe that for me, missing the top 15 was not a matter of how I played last week, it was other moments during the year. Last week was my best result of the year.
“Obviously I finished 16th, it was hard to swallow, two years ago I finished 17th, so it’s getting there. I’m improving every year.
“I’m playing this course that I know pretty well, so I just have to continue the way I have been, because it works.”
Gregory Havret: “It’s been a busy year since the Challenge Tour season began in Turkey, and now this is the big one, the longest one, the big test.
“There are still so many holes to play. It’s a long road, but you have to stay focused. No matter what happens on the course you want to stay really focused because it’s a long story this Q-School thing.”
Jean-Baptiste Gonnet: “I haven’t been playing anymore, I’ve just been teaching golf. I went to First Stage just for fun and I made it to Second Stage and now I’m here, so I’m back playing.
“I love playing golf. I played poorly at the end of my career so it was tough for me to play golf, and I didn’t even want to think about playing golf even with my friends. I wasn’t enjoying it very much but I haven’t played for a year or so and I’m enjoying it much more, so that’s why I’m here, to have fun.”
Benjamin Poke: “It’s always nice to get off to a good start. It’s my first time at Final Stage and I’ve heard from some of the other guys, especially some of the Danes, how long a week it is. As always, tournaments are not won on day one but I’m certainly very happy to get off to a good start. Hopefully I can continue in the same mindset.
“Coming from the Nordic Golf League last year and playing in Category 13 on the Challenge Tour, I felt like I had a good season by making it to the Grand Final and from hereon in, everything I do this week is just a bonus. It’s quite a nice place to be, I think, and obviously you’re still trying to do as well as you can and the nerves are still going to be there because it means something to you. My goal is to take every day at a time and every shot at a time – it’s a cliché but that’s the thing.”