AS a teenager, Joost Steenkamer caused consternation among residents of a high-rise block on the Peak. On the patio of his parents' apartment, the resourceful Dutch-born Steenkamer erected his own net, into which he would strike golf balls for hours on end. 'I'd spend ages there just beating golf balls. It used to drive my three sisters and some of our neighbours crazy,' said Steenkamer, referring to the period between 1980 and 1985 when he attended the German-Swiss International School. Now aged 29, Steenkamer is enjoying a nostalgic return to the country where he learned to play the game and is proving that his unusual patio practice habits were not part of a mis-spent youth. At the half-way stage of the US$300,000 Hong Kong Open, Steenkamer lay in joint 13th place on 140 - eight shots off the blistering pace being set by Mexican Rafael Alarcon. Among those behind him are Dominique Boulet and Alec Pettigrew, contemporaries of his. 'We used to play together as juniors at Fanling and Shek O and it was Dominique who always used to win the money.' This week Steenkamer is aiming to get his pay-back. 'It's great to be back. I have a lot of fond memories from my time in Hong Kong,' said the rangy, bespectacled Dutchman, who is experiencing his best run of form since he turned professional in September 1989. 'My game has been improving and I'm really enjoying my golf at the moment,' he said after adding a 72 to his opening round of 68 over the Composite Course. It had been an eventful start to the tournament for Steenkamer. His prospects of a sub-par return appeared negligible as his round drew to a close. Even-par through 14 holes, he was in danger of dropping at least one stroke at the par-three 15th when faced with a 60 foot putt for par. In front of the television cameras he holed that long-range effort before producing an even more outrageous stroke at the par-four 16th, usually played as the 18th on the New Course. With 144 yards to the flag, Steenkamer pulled out his nine-iron. 'It was right at the stick,' said the Dutchman, who, from the stoney silence of the handful of spectators gathered behind the green, feared his ball had ricocheted from the flag into the bunker. 'There was no response at all. When I got on to the green I asked if anyone knew where my ball was. They told me it was in the hole and then began to applaud,' he said. With that eagle-two he soared on to the leaderboard for the first time. After a par at 17, he consolidated his position with a 25-foot birdie putt at the last to end the day in a tie for third place, just two shots off the pace. Ranked second among Holland's professional golfers, Steenkamer last week teamed up with top-rated Rolf Muntz to represent his country in the World Cup of Golf at Shenzhen's Mission Hills. With four-round aggregates of 286, two-under par, Steenkamer and Muntz finished in 18th place - a performance Holland have bettered only twice since 1954. For Steenkamer, it was a satisfying effort. 'In the past I've been inconsistent. I've had a lot of low scores, but have often had one bad round. Last week was good because I eliminated the poor round,' he said, in reference to two scores of 70 and two of 73. It was a continuation of the new-found consistency that earned him the biggest success of his career in the first week of August when he recorded a stunning victory in the Audi Quattro Trophy on the PGA European Challenge Tour.