The second-round leaderboard in the $1.2 million Rocco Forte Sicilian Open proves pedigree in amateur golf is not always a guarantee of success.
Frenchman Julien Guerrier shares the lead with Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard at 9 under. They’re one shot ahead of Englishmen Ryan Evans and Steven Brown. Evans is the odd man out in that quartet. He belongs more in the Ian Poulter camp since he was a virtual unknown in amateur golf.
Guerrier returned a 6-under 65 to get into contention. Bjerregaard had a 68, Evans a 69, while Brown returned a 66.
In strong winds that have swept over the Italian island, Guerrier’s two days have been exceptional. The 31-year-old is the only player over the first two days to go bogey-free.
“I’m playing really good,” Guerrier said. “I made no bogeys so, in these conditions in two rounds, to make no bogeys is really good. I come from La Rochelle, it’s very windy so I think that helped me a lot. I also won the Amateur Championship so I think I like the windy conditions.”
The long hitter won that British Amateur at Royal St. George’s in 2006. He’s spent the intervening years just trying to gain a foothold on the European Tour. He’s made nine trips to the European Qualifying School, but has spent most of his time on the European Challenge Tour. He has two victories on that circuit. A win this week would give him a European Tour exemption through to the end of 2019.
Bjerregaard won the 2010 European Amateur Championship, and has made three trips to the Qualifying School. He finally got his first European Tour victory in last year’s Portugal Masters, but many expected him to win sooner.
“It was a battle out there,” Bjerregaard said. “It was tough, everything from hitting the fairway to five-foot putts are really tough so I’m very happy with my game today. I kept it in play pretty good, not too many hiccups, chipping and putting was alright.
“It’s not been great so far this year but I’m starting to play a bit better, and I’m just taking it all in and gaining a lot of confidence. Hopefully I can keep doing that this week.”
Brown won the 2011 English Amateur Championship at Woburn and played in that year’s Walker Cup. However, he’s made six trips to Q-School since then.
Evans earned his way onto this year’s European Tour by finishing eighth on last year’s Challenge Tour. He got his first professional win in the 2017 Turkish Airlines Challenge after four Q-School attempts.
An Evans win would arguably the best story. The man from Kettering, England was a late bloomer in amateur golf. He finally made it into the England Golf system about 18 before he turned professional. Until that time, he had financed his golf by working for cosmetic firm Avon.