(CNN) - More accustomed to driving customers around in his Uber, Adam Stephens didn't expect to be driving his way through the field at the Australian Open on Thursday.
Stephens, currently No. 1,939 in golf's world rankings, was recently forced to start working as an Uber driver "just to get mortgage going and a bit of income in" after he stopped earning enough through golf to pay the bills.
The 30-year-old hit a three-under-par 69 -- including five birdies and two bogeys -- to sit just two shots off the leader, European and PGA Tour regular An Byeong-hun.
"My mate told me yesterday: 'You're 251 to 1 to be the first-round leader,'" Stephens joked. "I said: 'That sounds all right but I'd much rather have you put money on me.'"
"I know the course fairly well," he added. "I've got a couple of mates who are members. My caddie was a member here.
"I just try and keep the bogeys down for the week, just like keep doing your birdies and you're going to be up there."
Now struggling to make ends meet, Stephens had to advertise the spare room in his house to help with the income.
"Mate, I've just got a two-bedroom unit in Hope Island area," he said. "I've just got my missus there and I've just got a person renting the other room out recently, which is nice."
'Almost bankrupt me'
Stephens missed the cut at last week's New South Wales Open, but is now leading the likes of major winner Keegan Bradley and US Ryder Cup veterans Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker.
Hailing from the Gold Coast, Stephens only picked up a golf club for the first time at the age of 11, before going to golf school in Queensland at 17.
From there he went to Hills International, the same college former world No. 1 Jason Day attended for his golf education.
A one-time winner of the South Pacific Open, Stephens grinded for years in Asia with little success, eventually leading him to give up everything but his Australasian Tour card last year.
"To be honest, I didn't go to Japan this year because I had no money," he said. "That's the reality of it over here in Australia. I went there last year and I got to final three stage, but it almost bankrupt me."
With a first-place prize of around $163,000, a second place prize of $92,500 and a third place prize of $61,500, Stephens may be able to leave his Prius on his driveway and head to the driving range instead.
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