Nick Dougherty described his opening 68 at the Volvo China Open as a ‘ray of sunshine’ as the Chorley ace looks forward to the future with renewed optimism following the darkest period of his young life.

Long tipped as a future golfing star, the 26-year-old Shaw Hill professional seemed on the verge of fulfilling that promise in 2007 as a seventh-placed finish at the US Open in Oakmont proved the highlight of a year that saw him claim his second European Tour victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship alongside a string of top-10 finishes.

He finished 11th on the Order of Merit and looked set to enjoy a prolific 2008 only to be devastated by the sudden death of his mother in April of that year.

Understandably, form and motivation slipped and it is a credit to Dougherty’s character and resilience that he still managed four subsequent top-10 finishes.

This year has so far proved equally tough but Dougherty has seen signs of recovery at both the recent Malaysian Open and Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth.

He lies one shot behind leader Markus Brier after shooting a four-under-par round at Beijing CBD International GC yesterday and for Dougherty, it is further confirmation he is slowly but surely returning to something like his previous form.

“I’m delighted with what I’m doing, I’ve just got to keep doing the same stuff,” he said.

“There’s no guarantees of anything but at the same time, I’m really proud of where I’ve come from and how well I’m playing, “I think that’s as good a golf as I’ve ever played in my career today. It was phenomenal, it really was, I’m so delighted, a ray of sunshine in what has been quite a bleak year.”