American Sihwan Kim took the halfway lead of the Kazakhstan Open on a day dominated by the two holes-in-one – and two cars won – by Denmark’s Jeppe Pape Huldahl and Dutchman Maarten Lefaber.
All five of the par threes at Nurtau GC had a new Audi on offer for an ace by promoters from the start of the week and a remarkable morning saw Huldahl hole on the first hole – his tenth – from 148 metres with a wedge, winning an Audi A4 and a Perrelet watch valued at $101,000.
Within half an hour Lefaber had holed his seven iron tee shot on the 169-metre 16th hole to win a brand new Audi A6 - this is the 11th staging of the tournament and the hole-in-one prize has never been won before.
“I didn’t really believe it when it went in,” said 33 year old Huldahl. “I’ve made two holes-in-one before but never in a Challenge Tour event, this was the first.
“It’s the best feeling, I was a bit dizzy afterwards and didn’t really know what to do! It’s just a great bonus – you don’t stand on the tee thinking about winning the car. I don’t know how many times I’ve played par threes and not won the car that’s on offer, so it’s never in your mind.
“I just love it here in Kazakhstan. I got the course record a couple of years ago, now this – I wish I could play here every week.”
Forty year old Lafeber said: “I’d just made two stupid bogeys in a row and I was disappointed, so I thought I’d just hit a seven iron, and I actually looked at the car one more time before I hit it and thought ‘why not?’ It was just one of those moments.
“It went straight at it, never left the pin, just hopped once, checked and dropped. I actually drive an A6 at home and was looking for a new car right now, so this is perfect timing for me to get a new one.”
Kim followed up an opening round of 64 with a fine three under par 69 to lead by two shots, helped by holing for an eagle two on the third hole, his 12th, with a wedge from 129 yards.
“It was much tougher today than yesterday,” said the 26 year old. “The course was a lot firmer under the sun in the afternoon, the greens were hard and they tucked the pins away quite a bit so it was more of a test.
“On the third I knew if I swung out of my shoes with my sand wedge out of the rough it was going to barely get there, and it carried the bunker by a yard and I guess it then just trickled in.
“My game seems alright but it suits this golf course because you don’t have to take driver so much because it’s so firm. I can just hit three woods and hybrids and then rely on good distance control.
“I need to stay in the same zone. It’s not a golf course where you can aim to shoot really low, so I just need to stay calm, not get frustrated and stay patient.”
France’s Sebastien Gros and South African Shaun Norris lead the chasing pack, both firing fine rounds of 67 to sit on nine under par.
First round leader Joachim B Hansen endured a difficult round the day after equalling the course record with an opening 63, shooting 73 to fall back to three shots behind the leader alongside Danish compatriot Mads Søgaard.
Road to Oman Rankings leader Ricardo Gouveia bounced back from a disappointing opening round of 74 to move up to three under par for the week and well in contention as so often this season.
The halfway cut was made at level par, with 66 players making it through to the weekend.