Lumbres, France – Adam Gee, Sihwan Kim and Simon Wakefield each posted rounds of four-under 67 on Thursday to share the opening-round lead of the Saint-Omer Open.
Raul Quiros, Darren Fichardt and Raymond Russell are tied for fourth at three- under 68 at Aa Saint Omer Golf Club.
This event is being played opposite the U.S. Open, so most of the European Tour's best are at Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. The European Challenge Tour is co-sponsoring the championship.
Gee was the first of the leaders in with his 67.
He dropped a shot at the third, but got the stroke back with a birdie at the fourth. Gee's last birdie on the front side came at No. 8, but he continued his fine form on the back with a birdie at 10.
Starting at the 12th, Gee sandwiched two birdies inside two bogeys to stay at two-under par.
Gee missed the green at the par-three 17th, but chipped in, then birdied 18 for his share of the lead.
"It's a good start," said the 31-year-old Gee, who missed most of last season after hip surgery. "I had some good fortune today. I hit the flag on the 17th and it went in, and on the 18th I hit a good shot from a bad lie and it ran up nicely to the hole.
"It's a quirky golf course and you get good breaks and bad breaks. Sometimes good shots go badly and bad shots turn out well. I managed to get the most out of the good stuff today."
Kim, a Challenge Tour regular who is playing his first season in Europe, was flawless on the front nine with three birdies and no bogeys. He mixed two birdies and two bogeys through the first six holes on his back side, but a birdie at 17 tied him for the lead.
"I missed in the right places," said the 23-year-old, who was born in Korea and moved to the U.S. when he was 12. "I wouldn't say I was hitting the ball terribly, but I certainly wasn't striping it. I got some lucky bounces here and there. I've been working hard on my putting. My speed has been a little off and my short putting has been horrendous in my last two or three events."
Wakefield, a former member of the European Tour who elected to concentrate on the Challenge Tour this season, started on the 10th tee Thursday and flew out of the gate.
He rolled in a four-footer for birdie at 10, then sank a 25-footer at No. 11. Wakefield knocked his approach to four feet at 12, but failed to convert the birdie chance.
The Englishman picked up another birdie at the 14th, but fell down the leaderboard with back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16. Wakefield got back to two- under for the tournament thanks to a birdie at three.
He polished off his round with two birdies in his last three holes to move into the share of first.
"I'm just very happy with how everything is at the moment," said Wakefield. "I've decided I'm going to focus on the Challenge Tour this season and try to get my card back that way. The only exception might be the Austrian Open, as I lost in a playoff there last year."
Scott Pinckney, Steven Tiley, Colm Moriarty, Gary Lockerbie, Berry Henson, Alastair Forsyth and Anthony Snobeck are knotted in seventh place at two-under 69.
NOTES: Steven O'Hara withdrew during the first round...Defending champion Matthew Zions opened with a two-over 73.