Just days after Ian Woosnam delivered one of Welsh sport’s greatest moments by leading Europe to Ryder Cup glory at The K Club, Mark Pilkington and Gareth Wright ensured the Welsh dragon was roaring in deepest Kazakhstan as they moved into a share of the lead at the European Challenge Tour’s Kazakhstan Open.
The Welsh pair, both of whom can secure a place on The 2007 European Tour by winning the €48,000 first prize on Sunday afternoon at the Nurtau Golf Club on the outskirts of Almaty, lead Spain’s Alfredo Garcia-Heredia by one going into the weekend, with a further nine players tied on six under.
Pilkington set the Welsh tone early in the second round with an excellent six under 66 to post the leading eight under 136 aggregate before Wright, who began the day at level par, produced the best round of the tournament so far, a flawless 64, to join his fellow countryman at the top of the leaderboard and set a new course record for the redesigned lay out at Nurtau.
Wright, currently 42nd on the Challenge Tour Rankings, got off to a great start, picking up birdies at the first, third and fourth holes to infuse his game with a new level of confidence.
He turned in three under before picking up a birdie on the 11th, an eagle three on the par five 13th, and two further birdies on the 14th and 17th to set the new course record.
“It’s nice to see two Welshman at the top of the leaderboard,” said the 24 year old Wright, who only recently recovered from a back injury that saw him miss six consecutive cuts.
“A round like that has been coming for me for a while now and it’s satisfying to have done it at this tournament and on a golf course like this. This is one of the best set-ups we have played on the Challenge Tour this year. The rough is very tough and it feels like the kind of course you play on The European Tour, which is what the Challenge Tour players want.
“This is an absolutely massive week for us. If you have had a decent season up till now and manage to win here then you can win a card for The European Tour. One of the main tests this week is trying not too think about that and just letting the golf happen.”
Like Wright, Pilkington has let it happen brilliantly for the first two rounds. The 28 year old is currently 13th on the Rankings, and a maiden Challenge Tour victory this week would propel him into the race to finish the season as Challenge Tour Number One with just two events remaining on the Schedule after Kazakhstan.
“I played well today and yesterday, the only difference was that I holed a few more putts today,” said Pilkington.
“I’ve had a few chances to win this season but this would the best week to do it. Because of the prize money on offer, and the fact that we are very close to the end of the season, this week is a big one for everyone out here.”
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