Aaron Cockerill’s red-hot form has travelled from Morocco to Ireland and he will take a share of the lead into day two at the Stone Irish Challenge.
The Canadian, who has jumped from 97th to 50th on the Road to Mallorca Rankings over the past three tournaments, carded a five under par 67 to sit atop the leaderboard alongside England’s Laurie Canter, Emilio Cuartero Blanco of Spain and Dutchman Daan Huizing.
The round was the first trip Cockerill made around the difficult Headfort New course, after he spent the early part of the week working to make travel arrangements for the upcoming Hainan Open following his last three results of tied 17th, tied fifth and tied seventh, which earned him a place in the limited field.
“This course is pretty demanding off the tee, and I hadn’t played a practice round because I’ve been trying to figure out my visa, but maybe that was a good thing because there were fewer things to think about,” he said.
It can often be a fine line between success and failure in professional golf and the 27-year-old believes the key to his current form comes from being on the good side of those narrow margins.
“I’ve made a lot of cuts, but I just hadn’t had a lot of high finishes,” he said. “It’s not that big of a difference between finishing 40th and finishing 15th. It’s a couple things here or there, maybe one less bad drive or making the odd putt, just very minor stuff.
“I’ve kind of been around the lead for the last month it feels like so I’m getting a bit more comfortable and my game is feeling good.”
Asked if he puts much stock into his position on the leaderboard after one round, the Winnipeg native said he has learned his lesson over the years.
“I used to, and that’s when I would shoot 75 in round two or three and be out of it, but not anymore. Now I just take it shot by shot, as simple as that sounds, that’s what has been working for me, just worry about the next one.”
With only the top 45 players qualifying for the season-ending Challenge Tour Grand Final, Cockerill has sprung to life at the perfect time, but he will have to hold off his peers who he shares the lead with and a host of players within striking distance.
Dublin resident Cormac Sharvin, who occupies the eighth position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, sits only two shots back of the leaders after carding a three under par round of 69 and he is joined by former European Tour winner, Michael Hoey from Northern Ireland who also carded an opening round 69 of his own to take a share of tenth place.
The opening round of the Stone Irish Challenge was suspended due to darkness, however with only one group left to finish, the final group will complete play tomorrow morning at 8:45 am local time and tee times for round two will remain unaffected.