Nino Bertasio moved into a share of the lead at the Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort as the Italian carded a sizzling six under par second round 66, which included an eagle two at the par four fourth hole after holing out from a fairway bunker.
The 27 year old from Brescia called it the “perfect shot” as he spun the ball back into the cup with a sand wedge, after a wayward drive on the short dogleg par four, and it spurred him on to the joint best round of the day which also included six birdies and two bogeys.
The Swiss-born player joined the first round leader Robert Coles at the top on ten under par after the Englishman added a three under 69 to his seven under par opening gambit at the sun-kissed Carlow venue.
Bertasio is in need of a big result in order to at least secure his Challenge Tour status for next year and he was delighted to move into contention.
“It was a really nice round, I’m very pleased with it,” said Bertasio. “I got here on Monday and put in some intense practice in the afternoon after playing some terrible golf last week in Italy, and it paid off.
“I hit the ball pretty good on the first day and today I started only OK, but then I holed my second shot on four which settled me down.
“I didn’t hit a great tee shot and hit it into the right bunker. The pin was long and left which was a pretty tough pin, but I just pulled off a perfect shot. It pitched three or four yards long and spun back into the hole.
“I played great on the back nine then, just like I did yesterday, hitting fairways and greens and I made a couple of putts.
“I love Ireland, I enjoyed the Northern Ireland Open earlier in the season and the people here are great. They love golf and that’s very nice for us players.
“Yesterday a class of kids asked where I’m from and when I said Italy, they just went crazy and followed me for a couple of holes, shouting ‘Italy, Italy, Italy’, so it was great. This tournament is great, the hotel is fantastic and everything is pretty much top notch. I’m looking forward to the weekend now.”
Coles, whose last victory coincidentally came on Irish soil on the last visit of Europe’s top developmental tour to these shores, was delighted to maintain his momentum courtesy of a flawless round and the three-time Challenge Tour winner heads into the weekend in confident form having picked up two shots on the way home.
“It was quite a bit different today to be honest,” said Coles. “I struggled off the tee, didn’t hit it so well and didn’t putt quite so well either but I got a couple in the end and obviously managed to keep the bogeys away, which made it look a bit better than it felt.
“I’m quite pleased though, it wasn’t horrendous even if it wasn’t as good as yesterday. My putter was pretty cold for the first 13 holes and then I made a couple in the end, which made it feel a bit better. I’m happy where I am though.
“Hopefully that’s the not-so-great round out of the way. You know you’re at least going to have a little period where it doesn’t go great and let’s hope that was it.
“It’s nice to get a couple of birdies coming in. I made a nice putt on 14 and then scrambled a bit on 15 and birdied 16, and they’re both strong holes so that was good.
“There are only two tournaments after this so any event now is big for all of us, no matter where you are in the Rankings. We’re all trying to get to a certain level and at the moment I’m a long way off the top 15, you can only do one thing at a time though really.”
Coles’ compatriot Tom Murray was two shots further back on eight under par, following a five under 67, as he added further weight to the phrase “Beware the injured golfer”, having struggled with an injury in the lead-up to the tournament.
American Daniel Im holds fourth place on his own on seven under par after a two under second round 70, as he targets a second Challenge Tour victory of the season.