Emilio Cuartero Blanco credits a change in attitude for the resurgent form which has earned him the halfway lead at the Stone Irish Challenge.
The Spaniard, who birdied half of the holes on the difficult Headfort New layout in his opening round, carded seven birdies on day two to post rounds of 67-68 and take a one shot lead on nine under par.
“I have had a new attitude since my best friend Alex started caddying for me,” he said. “With him on the bag, if we miss a shot, we just laugh about it and if I hit a great shot, it’s like ‘Merry Christmas!’
“The first week he caddied for me was in Belgium at the KPMG Trophy and that was the first cut I made in 12 weeks, and we’ve been having success ever since.”
It is a strong start for the 28-year-old who currently occupies the 100th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and is in need of a win in Ireland if he is to qualify for the three remaining limited-field events this season.
“If I keep that same attitude, by the end of the week, the score won’t be something I’ll be thinking about because I’ll be having fun, and I’ll be playing golf this weekend,” he said.
“But more than the score, the biggest thing is how happy I am. It feels like it doesn’t matter what happens, I’ve just got a good attitude and it’s all good.”
Leading the chasing pack is two-time Challenge Tour winner Oscar Lengden, who sits on eight under par after opening rounds of 68-67. The Swede is in 51st on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, and will look to collect a late-season victory that would place him firmly in the mix for a European Tour card.
Tied for third on seven under par are Irishman Gavin Moynihan, who is playing on the European Tour this year, Icelander Gudmundur Kristjansson, who has recently joined the Challenge Tour after picking up his third win of the season on the satellite-tour Nordic League, and Canadian Aaron Cockerill.
Moynihan currently leads the race for the Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the low-Irishman at the Stone Irish Challenge, but he is closely trailed by Cormac Sharvin, the highest ranked player on the Road to Mallorca in the field. Sharvin sits in a share of sixth place on six under par alongside Scotland’s Bradley Neil and Dutchman Daan Huizing.
A total of 63 players survived the 36-hole cut, which fell on two over par. Thick rough and difficult conditions have added to the challenging set-up at Headfort New as the course showed its teeth again in the second round.
Day three at the Stone Irish Challenge is set to begin at 9:00 am local time with the leading group of Cuartero Blanco, Lengden and Moynihan set to go at 10:50 am.