Golf: Elliot Saltman putts himself in the groove at last

Lothians golfer Elliot Saltman finally found his putting groove to tuck himself in among the early leaders after the opening round of the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore.

The Archerfield ace posted a tidy four-under 67 to finish four behind Greenock's Chris Doak, who claimed a course-record with a sparkling 63.

Saltman, who had two holes-in-one during his share of 12th in the recent Wales Open, made an early exit from last weekend's Saint Omer Open and was left feeling blue by his form on the greens.

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He hit back yesterday with a tidy round that comprised a meagre 23 putts, the highlight being a 30-footer from off the green at the 12th.

Saltman said: "It's been a bit frustrating of late. I've been playing well but just not holing anything. Saint Omer was an example. In round one I had 37 putts and round two I had 34. You can't expect to do anything with figures like that. The 23 today told its own story and that's why I'm up there."

Capital man Mark Kerr also began with purpose as he hit a two-under 69. The Murrayfield pro, fourth in the Tartan Tour's Northern Open at Spey Valley in 2009, has just completed his PGA exams and, with the results due in a couple of weeks, the 29-year-old is hoping to get back into more competitive action. "It's difficult to get going when you are working and doing your training. I've played a few pro-ams on the Scottish circuit but you can't beat a proper competition and this feels good to be back into tournament play," he said.

Craigielaw's Shaun McAllister, the former Scottish Boys' strokeplay champ, hit a 70.

Swanston's former Scottish Amateur champ John Gallagher had to settle for a three-over 74 while Ross Dixon of the Renaissance club had a 75. Dunbar's Neil Fenwick, who is giving full-time action a go this season, had a tough introduction to the second tier and carded an eight-over 79.

At the head of the field, Doak, who won the Northern Open in 2008 at Spey Valley, fired a classy eight-under round which left him two ahead of Swedish rookie Jesper Kenegaard.

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