Max Orrin and Ross Kellett could not be separated after the first day of the new European Challenge Tour season with both men carding opening rounds of 65 at the Barclays Kenya Open.
Nairobi’s Muthaiga Golf Club hosts the Challenge Tour’s season-opener, and it was a pair of experienced competitors who seized the initiative after the first round in the Kenyan capital.
Scotland’s Kellett struck first this morning. The 30 year old claimed the clubhouse lead with a fine round which included a pair of eagles and two chip-ins on the par five fourth and the par three 11th – which handed the man from Glasgow an eagle and a birdie respectively.
England’s Orrin, who despite being only 23 is a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour, bagged seven birdies en route to his six under par score in the afternoon.
Both men sit one shot above a chasing pack featuring five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey, seven-time Sunshine Tour champion Jaco Ahlers and Sweden’s Simon Forsstrom, whose sole Challenge Tour triumph came at the 2016 KPMG Trophy.
Having triumphed recently in Egypt at the Mediterranean Tour's Mirage Classic, Kellett arrived in Nairobi full of confidence – and was delighted to start the season so strongly.
“Everything I was doing seemed to be working,” he said. “I got off to a really good start. I made birdies at the second and third and then I chipped in on the fourth – so before I knew it I was four under.
“I picked up a couple more around the turn. I eagled the tenth after holing one from about 20 feet and then I chipped in again at 11 – so them I’m six under!
“I was really straight off of the tee today, I holed a few chips – which you don’t do very often – and I also holed some really nice putts. The greens this week are in great shape and although they are slightly slow they are rolling well.
“It has been a long off-season. I didn’t do much before Christmas but since the first of January I have been away preparing for this year.
“I managed to win last week in Egypt where I played some really lovely golf against a very strong field. Coming here I felt very strong and it is really nice to have carried that feeling on from last week.”
Also thrilled with his start to the 2018 season was Orrin after battling windy conditions this afternoon.
“I played lovely today,” he said. “It was set up quite tough with some tight pins and although it was blustery I played really solid tee to green.
“I put it in play a lot. I had a lot of looks at birdies and I managed to keep putting it in close so in terms of my putting it wasn’t the toughest day in that respect – but on this course you have to hit well off of the tee, and that was definitely the case today.
“The rain has helped the course and it is in great condition – I am looking forward to a good week.
“This is the biggest prize fund of the year but it is still a four round event and you have to keep playing against the golf course and 155 other guys.”
Also in contention after 18 holes in Kenya is Germany’s Max Schmitt, who sits two back after carding a four under par 67 in what was his first ever Challenge Tour round.
Leading the home charge was Kenya’s Mohit Mediratta, who is four off the top after an opening two under par round of 69.