Hend, who will turn 31 next week, carded a 9-under-par 63, two shots better than the previous best set at the two-month old Les Quatre Domaines course, and leads Jace Bugg (Henderson, Ky.) by two shots. Six others, including hometown fan favourite Craig Matthew (Ile Bizard, QC), are three strokes behind.
The TELUS Open, a co-sanctioned hosted by both the Canadian Tour and the Quebec PGA, features a starting field of 90 players from the Canadian Tour, 70 Quebec PGA professionals and eight others who qualified on Monday.
Playing in the second grouping of the morning off the first tee, Hend drained nine birdies while playing a bogey-free round on the 7079-yard layout to vault into top spot.
It almost seemed like a practice round for me out there, I drove the ball and did all the little things well, said Hend, now in his second year on the Canadian Tour. Ive been getting my share of birdies, but in the past few weeks my problem has been the bogeys, at least until today.
With the temperatures in the high 30s C Thursday, the heat and humidity took its toll on many of the players, but didnt seem to have any effect on Hend.
For us Aussies, were used to this - it is even hotter back home, he admitted. I am used to this type of humidity. If the weather stays the same, I think you will see low scores in the morning but as the wind picks up later in the day the scores should go up.
Hend has had a couple of near-misses this year, including at the TELUS Vancouver Open when he lost in a six-man playoff, the largest in Canadian Tour history. Now, as PGA qualifying school approaches later this fall, he feels he must step up his game a notch.
I need to win now, to win some cash for Q-school (where the entry fee is over $4,500 U.S.). I have the incentive now, but it would be nice to win for once, instead of coming so close again.
Coming off his first Tour win at the Ontario Open Classic in Thunder Bay three weeks ago, Matthew, 25, doesnt feel the pressure of playing in front of his hometown crowd.
I love playing at home, I always seem to do well in Montreal, he said. The support has been fantastic. But I go out there now and play for myself - I dont worry about pleasing, or displeasing, anyone else.
After play Friday, the field will be narrowed down to the low 60 scores plus ties. Those surviving the cut will compete for the $32,000 top prize on the weekend.
Full-field scores from the TELUS Open