Lasse Jensen (pictured by Mark Robinson) rode a wave of Danish good will en route to an exemplary opening round of 61 and a two stroke lead over Korea’s Byeong-hun An at the Rolex Trophy.
Fresh from a star turn at his home event on The European Tour last week – Made in Denmark – where he finished in a tie for seventh, the 2012 Qualifying School graduate fired 11 unanswered birdies on Wednesday to finish atop the leaderboard.
Earlier in the season Jensen finished runner up to South Africa’s Jake Roos at the Barclays Kenya Open, which tied his previous best European Challenge Tour finish from 2012, and he is now ideally placed to go one better with three rounds to play in this unique Pro-Am event.
Some might have seen their amateurs as a distraction this week, but not the Dane, with Jensen seeing his junior playing partners as one of the reasons he went so low on day one.
“I hit it very close all day and I just made all the putts,” said the man at 23rd on the Challenge Tour Rankings. “It was just a day where everything went right and I couldn’t do anything wrong. I am just really happy to have shot 11 under, that is unbelievable, and a great start to the week.
“Earlier this year I finished second in Kenya so I am OK being up there on the leaderboard, playing for the victory. There are still three rounds left though, and I think the hardest one for me will be tomorrow, because how do you play a round after you have just shot 61? If I can go out and just be cool and play OK, I would be happy tomorrow.
“I had some time off a fortnight ago, and last week I played at home on The European Tour. I finished seventh, and the whole week was a really good experience. I also got to see my coach and we worked on some good stuff.
“Playing with the juniors today was maybe an advantage for me, as I was a bit more relaxed and a bit more casual, because we were laughing and I was forgetting how well it was going. If I had played with three other pros, maybe it would have been a different story.
“I was just trying to have some fun with my partner Marc, so it was a very calm day, even though I shot 11 under. Actually the only putt I made a little fist pump on was the last hole, as the rest of the time we were just walking on the course and everything was normal.”
Just a couple back, after an impressive opening round of his own is An, who continues to play well this season as he looks to secure a place on The European Tour at the third time of asking.
His position on the Ranking has improved year on year, and after four top ten finishes so far in 2014 – including a couple of runners-up places at both the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda and Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge – the Korean is handily placed once again to pick up a maiden trophy.
“I’m very satisfied, as this is only the second time I have been here, but I played really well today. I made a lot of birdies but a lot of them were close, and I only made two or three putts outside ten or 15 feet.
“I was hitting it great, took advantage of the par fives by knocking it close, and my short game was good. There were a couple of three putts for bogeys, but other than that I am really happy with my round.
“Playing with the juniors today was really fun, as it was quite relaxing, and the weather was nice. It was great to play with them, and it was a Pro-Am, which is always fun.
“This week is going to be a short game contest as the course is not very long, so you have to be accurate with your wedges, and you have to make sure you hole plenty of putts from inside ten feet to score your best.”
Just a shot further back is Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera, after an eight under par score for the first 18 holes saw him continue a resurgence in form that goes back to a runner-up finish at the Azerbaijan Open Golf Challenge a few weeks ago.
He is currently eighth on the season-long Rankings, and is in good position to improve upon that as he looks to earn a return to The Race to Dubai.
”I’m very satisfied as I hit the ball so great,” said the 29 year old from Urt. “I was very accurate with my long game and very precise with my wedges, which helps here, and I hit my driver exactly where I wanted every time. I know I can play well here as I finished second in 2007 and my game has really improved since then. I just need to let my golf do the talking.
“In Azerbaijan, the only goal was to enter the Rolex Trophy because I was 39th on the Rankings and it was the last tournament to qualify. I wasn’t keen on playing in Norway and Finland, so I was glad to get this good result because I deserved it, as I have been playing well for months. I will just keep going and tomorrow the target will be to shoot the lowest score possible.”
The English pair of Sam Hutsby (65) and Andrew Johnston (66) are also handily placed in fourth and fifth place respectively, as the former looks for a first win on the second tier, and the latter looks to add a third of the season to his victory haul.
Damian Ulrich is the only home grown player in the field, but he got off to a solid start after a round of 67. He is in a four way tie for sixth place alongside the French trio of Cyril Bouniol, Edouard Espana and 2011 Rolex Trophy winner Benjamin Hebert.
61 L Jensen (Den) ,
63 B An (Kor) ,
64 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) ,
65 S Hutsby (Eng) ,
66 A Johnston (Eng) ,
67 C Bouniol (Fra) , E Espana (Fra) , B Hebert (Fra) , D Ulrich (Sui) ,
68 S Brown (Eng) , B Åkesson (Swe) , A Bernadet (Fra) , T Pilkadaris (Aus) , J Roos (RSA) , F Fritsch (Ger) , A Hortal (Esp) ,
69 S Henry (Sco) , J Lando Casanova (Fra) , J Garcia Pinto (Esp) , M Fitzpatrick (Eng) , M Tullo (Chi) , P Relecom (Bel) , C Shinkwin (Eng) ,
70 R Coles (Eng) , L Gagli (Ita) , M Delpodio (Ita) , A McArthur (Sco) , J Fahrbring (Swe) , D Gaunt (Eng) , J Barnes (Eng) , W Harrold (Eng) ,
71 D Coupland (Eng) , T Linard (Fra) , A Marshall (Eng) , A Tadini (Ita) , F Bergamaschi (Ita) , J Huldahl (Den) , P Widegren (Swe) ,
72 C Arendell (USA) , O Farr (Wal) ,
74 C Aguilar (Esp) , J Palmer (Eng) ,
75 P Oriol (Esp) ,
76 N Quintarelli (Ita) ,
Source: European Tour