Grant Forrest marked his first competitive outing in five weeks by getting off to an encouraging start in the Irish Challenge as a handful of other recent Scottish recruits to the paid ranks edged towards passing the opening test in this season’s European Tour Qualifying School.
Forrest was nursing a sore back as he missed three cuts in a row over the summer, having previously recorded two top-five finishes on the European Tour’s second-tier circuit in his first full season as a professional.
The 24-year-old was back firing on all cylinders in Ireland as he joined fellow Scot David Law in opening with a two-under-par 70 at Mount Wolseley, carding an eagle and three birdies at the Carlow venue to sit joint third, two shots off the lead, held by Swede Oscar Lengden.
“It was a good start, especially as it was a bit of a grind due to the course playing tough,” said Forrest, who made his pro debut in last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.
“The par-5s were all playing downwind and I was able to take advantage of that, notably at the tenth, where I chipped in from just short of the green after hitting a good drive over the corner of a dogleg to leave myself with a 5-iron from 225 yards.”
A birdie two holes later took the former Scottish Amateur champion to three-under before he dropped shots at the 13th and 15th. But, after hitting an 8-iron to 15 feet to set up a birdie two at the 16th, Forrest showed real resolve.
“A couple of the par fours on the back nine were playing really long into the wind and, after hitting two loose shots, bogeys were not the worst outcome before the birdie at the 16th was a bit of a bonus,” he added. “It felt a bit different to be out on the course again under pressure, but my back was fine.”
Elsewhere, Duncan Stewart, having raced to the turn in three-under, had to settle for a level-par start before play was abandoned for the day due to bad weather at the KLM Open in the Netherlands.
Only 72 players managed to complete their round in gusting winds and heavy rain at Spijk, with Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and England’s Richard Finch setting the clubhouse lead with five-under-par 66s.
Daniel Young led a third-day Scottish charge in the European Tour Q-School first-stage event at The Roxburghe. With the top 20 and ties progressing at the Kelso venue, Young moved into a share of third after a six-under-66 that contained seven birdies. The Perth man is eight-under overall and sits a shot ahead of John Gallagher (69), with Ewen Ferguson (68) also having jumped into the top ten.
Also on course to make it through to the middle stage in the marathon test are Scottish Stroke-Play champion Liam Johnston and Gleneagles-attached Tom Higson.