John Hahn raced into a three shot lead at the Turkish Airlines Challenge, shooting a nine under par 63 in a storm-hit first round at Gloria Golf Club.
The American made seven birdies and ended his round with an eagle on the par five ninth hole to take a commanding lead into the second day in Belek before thunderstorms delayed the afternoon rounds by 50 minutes.
Describing what has been a difficult start to 2016, Hahn spoke of his delight after carding his first sub-70 round of the European Challenge Tour season.
“I have been struggling this year, there’s no secret there,” said the 27 year old. “I think I lost focus and lost track of what I was good at and what got me to where I was as a player.
“Myself and Réné, my caddy, worked on picking really precise targets - off the tee, on the greens, and with chipping and putting.
“Nine under was obviously a very good round, but when you really focus you find that next level.
“After the last three weeks, I just wanted to go out there and play okay. I shot four under on my front nine and the two birdies I had before the turn really carried the momentum through.
“The putt on the last was a total bonus for eagle. I’m really having fun at the moment. When you enjoy your job you go out and perform at your best.”
A chance visit to the neighbouring Gloria Sports Arena, where members of the German national athletics team are currently training, gave Hahn inspiration ahead of the first round of this week’s event.
“It was incredible being around different athletes,” he continued. “I was watching them training and saw how focused they were.
“I translated that and thought to myself that I hadn’t been working hard and that I wasn’t focused enough, that maybe I was approaching things too lackadaisically.
“I know how good I am. I know I’m a great player and can compete on any tour in the world.
“I wanted to prove a point to myself, and to some extent my friends and family, that I can do this and I’m still a good player.
“Regardless of what else happens this week, I’m going to focus on my processes and I know that will pay dividends.”
A clutch of Europeans are tied for second on six under par, among them Clément Sordet, already a Challenge Tour winner after victory at last year’s Northern Ireland Open.
The Frenchman has endured a testing start to the 2016 season, missing the cut at both the Barclays Kenya Open and the Challenge de Madrid, but he shared Hahn’s elation after his first round 66.
“I had a really fun day out there,” said the 23 year old. “I played really well all day and hit a lot of fairways and greens. I putted really well and every time I missed the green I went up and down.
“Last week my short game was terrible. I came here on Saturday night and I have spent a lot of time around the greens. I can see already that it paid off and hopefully that will continue for the rest of the week.”
Alongside Sordet are his compatriot Joël Stalter, English duo Aaron Rai and Darren Wright, Portugal’s Ricardo Santos, and Road to Oman Rankings leader Sebastian Söderberg, while local interest will centre around Mustafa Hocaoglu after the Turkish hopeful opened with a three under par round of 69.