Callum Macaulay (Getty Images)
An opening eagle helped Scotland’s Callum Macaulay, making his maiden professional appearance on the Challenge Tour, grab an early lead on day one of the Kenya Open.
Despite damp conditions underfoot at Muthaiga Golf Club, which was due to 12 hours of rainfall in Nairobi on Wednesday, Macaulay posted a four under par round of 67.
With the morning starters yet to complete their rounds, Macaulay currently holds a one-shot lead over a quintet of rivals which includes England’s Robert Dinwiddie, who like the Scot is striving to bounce back to The European Tour at the first time of asking after surrendering his playing privileges last year.
Starting at the tenth hole, Macaulay got off to the perfect start with an eagle three before notching birdies at the three remaining par fives, with the only blip coming at the second hole, where he missed the green with his tee shot.
The 26 year old, who enjoyed an outstanding amateur career which culminated in him earning a place on The European Tour through the 2008 Qualifying School – Final Stage, said: “I was hoping to get off to a good start, so an eagle on my first hole wasn’t a bad way to do it. I had a three wood to the green for my second shot and the fairway was still quite wet after all the rain we’ve had, so I was unsure whether to go for it or not. But I caught it flush and ended up about three feet from the flag, so I’m glad I did. I also birdied the three other par fives, so I played them pretty well. The only bogey was at the par three second, where I left my chip short and missed the putt. But other than that, I played very well.
“It’s a good start to my Challenge Tour career – I played the Scottish Challenge as an amateur, but this is my first event as a pro. It’s also my first visit to Kenya, and so far I’ve been impressed. I was in India last month for the Avantha Masters, and that was a real eye-opener. But the hotel here’s very nice and I was also impressed with the course – they did a great job in getting it ready, considering all the rain we’ve had. It’s pretty hot now, but I’ve coped ok – I went to Mississippi State University for five years, so I got used to the heat over there.”
Macaulay is also still getting used to life in the professional ranks, having only relinquished his amateur status at the end of 2008.
Despite some eye-catching performances on The European Tour last year, most notably a back nine of 28 which saw him finish runner-up in Madeira last year, Macaulay struggled for consistency at times, eventually finishing 134th in The Race to Dubai.
But the Falkirk native is confident of restoring his confidence on the Challenge Tour this term.
He said: “I played a few events on the main Tour at the start of the season, but I’ll be concentrating mainly on the Challenge Tour for the rest of the season. As great as the experience of playing on The European Tour was last year, I still feel I’m learning my trade – and the Challenge Tour is a great place to do that. I learnt a lot last year, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.
“Towards the end of the season, when I was trying desperately to keep my card, I changed my mindset. Instead of trying to win the tournament I was concentrating mainly on just making the cut, and that probably cost me. I’m now thinking about winning tournaments again, and hopefully I can carry that through the rest of the season. If and when I get back onto the main Tour, I should be a better player – and a wiser one.”
After two seasons on The European Tour Dinwiddie is also hoping to rebuild his career on the Challenge Tour, and so far his quest is going well, having finished fifth in Colombia at the start of the season.
The 27 year old, who was born in Scotland but raised in England, travelled to Nairobi a day early in order to acclimatise and play a practice round at the newly-renovated course at Muthaiga Golf Club, which he last visited in 2007 – the year he won back-to-back Challenge Tout titles en route to finishing eighth in the Rankings.
And the decision appears to have paid off handsomely, as Dinwiddie notched four birdies and a solitary bogey at the long sixth hole to sign for a round of 68.
Dinwiddie was joined in a share of second place on three under par by Dutchman Floris de Vries, South African Alex Haindl, England’s Andrew Marshall and Sweden’s Fredrik Widmark.