Date: May 27, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Eccles shines first up on Challenge Tour

Geelong’s Ben Eccles has made an outstanding start to his first European Challenge Tour event in the Czech Repbublic.

The Golf Australia rookie squad member, 21, was in the first group off the first tee at the Golf & Spa Kunetická Hora and led for much of the day with a flawless seven-under-par 65.

Only a late 64 by in-form Englishman Jordan Smith knocked him back into a four-way share of second.

“It was a good round,” said Eccles, who won the New South Wales Open as an amateur last year before turning pro during the Australian Masters.

“I got off to a quick start with a birdie at the second and then just kept it rolling. I hit it pretty well all day and just managed to take advantage of that.

“It’s a nice position to be in. I think I was the last invite into this event, so to be where I’m at now is a pretty good feeling.

“It’s my first Challenge Tour event – I turned professional in November and I’ve played a few European Tour events through invitations and through my status in Australia. I’m just happy to be here.

“I’ve wanted to play in Europe since I was a kid and getting European Tour starts is unreal but I just haven’t managed to take advantage of them yet. I’m just playing through the tough weeks, and to be able to do something this week would be nice.”

Fellow Victorians David Bransdon (67) and Todd Sinnott (68) are also well placed after round one, while Daniel Gaunt (70) , Ewan Porter (71), Dimi Papadatos (71) and Scott Arnold (72) aren’t out of calculations.