BENJAMIN Poke remained in control on day four of the European Tour Qualifying School’s Final Stage as he increased his lead to three shots at Lumine Golf Club.
The Dane is in pole position with two rounds remaining after posting his fourth consecutive sub-70 round to reach 16-under par.
Meanwhile Poke’s closest challengers, Korea’s Jinho Choi, India’s SSP Chawrasia and Finland’s Sami Valimaki shared second place on 13-under.
The 27-year-old, who shot a four-under 67 on the Lakes Course on Monday, has led the six-round tournament since day two.
And following a bogey-free fourth round, which included two birdies in his final three holes, Poke will now look to earn a European Tour card for the first time in his career.
Poke said: “The conditions were a bit calmer but I still started off a bit slower, like I did yesterday.
“I just kept hitting fairways and greens but missed a few greens around five and six, and managed to scramble in nicely, which kept the momentum going a bit.
“I got a nice birdie on eight and from then on, I kept giving myself big chances and scrambled nicely when I needed to,” added Poke, who finished 29th on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca.
“It helps playing alongside guys who were also playing well. Toby (Tree) was three-under, I was four-under and Sami was six and it definitely helps because everybody’s playing well and going through good vibes.
“I’ve not given where I finish much thought, to be honest,” said Poke, who has been watching snooker on TV to relax in the evenings.
“Obviously, it’s a goal for everyone but I feel like I’ve got nothing to lose really. I’m just going do my best and see what happens.”
Choi charged up the leaderboard with the joint low round of the day on the Lakes – a seven-under 64, as he aims to regain his European Tour playing privileges, while 21-year-old Valimaki also pulled himself into contention with a six-under par 65.
Choi, who finished 181st on the Race to Dubai forcing last year’s Korean Tour money list winner to head to Qualifying School, said: “I enjoyed the round today. It was pretty solid.
“I putted really well, other than one three-putt, which was a missed short one, but overall it was a good day.”
“Coming into today I reminded myself that we’re only halfway through the tournament.
“So I told myself that I need to shoot some low scores this second half, and so that was all I really focused on – going low.
“I know I still need to shoot low numbers over the final two rounds as well if I want to get a European Tour card, so my mindset will still be to go low and keep playing solid golf.”
Chawrasia continued to safely navigate his way through the six-round marathon with a four-under par 67 on the Lakes.
The four-time European Tour winner was helped by an ace on the 186-yard fourth hole, one of two hole-in-ones recorded on the par three.
Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist also holed his tee shot en route to a 67 of his own.
Armitage cashes in on conditions
A six-way chasing pack, which includes Germans Hurly Long, Nicolai von Dellingshausen and Marcel Schneider, Sussex’s Toby Tree and Yorkshire’s Marcus Armitage as well as Frenchman Adrien Saddier, all share fifth place on 12-under.
Thirty-two year-old Armitage, whose only Challange Tour win came in the 2016 Foshan Open, said: “I’m really pleased with today’s round.
“I thought it was going to be quite windy. But it turned out to be calm and presented a lot of opportunities – and I played really well,” said Armitage who is attached to Howley Hall GC.
“I’m just taking it like any event, you keep chasing and you are trying to win.
“Obviously, you want to be in the top 25 but you also want to win the tournament – and that is the goal at the start of the week, and we will keep going.”
Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson charged up the leaderboard with an eight-under par 64, which marked the low round of the tournament at the Hills Course.
It took the Scot from outside the cut line to tied 17th, inside the number for a European Tour card.
Ferguson, who played in the 2015 Walker Cup before turning pro in 2016, said: “I played well today. I played well on the first couple of days as well.
“But it’s a long week and you just have to keep plugging away. I didn’t want a mistake to happen early on, so I think I played a little bit too defensive in the first couple of rounds.
“Today I just seemed to attack at a lot more pins – I just thought let’s just go for it,” added Ferguson, who is attached to Glasgow’s Bearsden GC.
“My dad’s out watching me this week and it’s quite nice to have someone you’re close to just watching you and willing you to do well with the odd wee fist pump when you hole a putt.
“I’m pretty tired after a long season on the Challenge Tour with China and Mallorca in the last few weeks,” said 23-year-old Ferguson, who won the Boys Amateur Championship, at Royal Birkdale, in 2013.
“I’ve felt quite a lot of pressure to try and get my card for quite a while now, so that’s why my dad’s come along to motivate me.
“I’m feeling pretty good – there’s two more days to go and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens at the end of it.”
The Final Stage cut line, which is limited to the top 70 players and ties after four rounds, fell at four-under, with 77 players making it through to the last two rounds.
Each player who bettered the 72-hole benchmark is guaranteed full status on the European Challenge Tour for 2020, with the top 25 players and ties earning European Tour cards after the sixth and final round
The attention now turns to the Lakes Course where the 77 remaining players will contest each of the two remaining rounds.
•For live scoring at Lumine, click here.