Daan Huizing mastered the blustery, swirling winds that whipped around the Galgorm Castle Golf Club on Friday morning to establish a three shot lead at the halfway stage of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge presented by Clannah and XJET.
The young Dutchman, who reached Number Two on the Amateur World Rankings before turning professional, was in brilliant form as he posted a second round of five under 66 to move to 11 under for the week and into a three stroke lead over Sweden’s Jens Dantorp and Englishman Ross McGowan.
Despite the testing conditions, Huizing dropped just one shot on the first hole before producing a classy display of ball-striking and control to finish with three birdies in his last four holes to move clear of the field.
“The conditions were quite tough but I actually enjoy playing with a breeze like that because it helps me to focus and allows you to shape the ball and try to use the wind to your advantage in some ways,” said Huizing.
“I am swinging the club well and playing with confidence at the moment so hopefully I can keep that going over the weekend and try to get my first win on the Challenge Tour.”
Huizing is certainly a name to keep note of. The speed of his progression through the professional ranks has been remarkable.
The 22 year old played the third level Pro Golf Tour (formerly the EPD Tour) at the start of the year and, despite taking the time to finish his economics degree back in his native Holland, racked up an amazing nine top ten finishes in 12 events.
That level of performance propelled him to the Challenge Tour and with his university degree completed he has been free to concentrate on golf full-time, finishing in the top five in four of his six Challenge Tour appearances this year.
“I have been able to concentrate on playing full-time since finishing my degree in April,” said Huizing.
“It has been really good to be able to come out on the Challenge Tour and make a fast start. I finished second in Austria in my first event on Challenge Tour and that gave me a lot of confidence and belief.
“You never know how you are going to handle new situations and environments so it has been very pleasing for to come out in the Challenge Tour and realise quickly that I can compete at this level.
“That has allowed me to really change my goals for the year. My main focus now is finishing in the top 15 on the Rankings and winning a place on The European Tour, so obviously a win here this weekend would go a long way towards that.”
The home challenge over the weekend at Galgorm Castle Golf Club will be led by young amateur Dermot McElroy and his professional countrymen Jonathan Caldwell and Mick McGeady, who all reached the halfway stage on five under.
McElroy played a lot of amateur golf with Huizing and is not surprised to see the 22 year old Dutchman flying high at the top of the leaderboard.
“The last two events I played with Daan he won them so I am not surprised to see his name up there said McElroy. He won the Lytham Trophy and the St Andrews Links Trophy by miles and is just a quality player,” said McElroy after his second round 70.
“I played okay today – I hit the ball off the tee a lot better but I haven’t played as well as I usually can around here. Maybe I am just a little burnt out as I have played a lot of golf this summer, but hopefully I can make a move over the weekend.”
Caldwell and McGeady carded respective second round scores of 69 and 72 and will be looking to move into contention with a strong third round.
One man who won’t be making a move over the weekend is Michael Hoey. The five-time European Tour winner has been a fine tournament ambassador this week but after calling a two shot penalty on himself midway through his second round, the 34 year old could not get back inside the cut line as he ended the day with a five over 76 for four over par total.
Playing the 11th hole at Galgorm, Hoey found his ball in thick rough. “The ball moved a little bit in this thick clump of rough,” he explained.
“I hadn’t grounded my club so I didn’t think it was a penalty but then I spoke to my partners and they were saying even if you didn’t ground the club it might still be a penalty. I wasn’t too comfortable with that so I spoke to one of the referees a few holes later and he basically said it was my call and I was 70 per cent sure that I had to call the penalty on myself. It’s a disappointing way to end really but I gave it everything I could today and just couldn’t do enough to make the cut.”