Niall Kearney leads by strokes at the end of the opening round of the Andalucía Challenge de Cádiz thanks to a sublime six under par round of 66 at Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri.
The Irishman signed a blemish free card at the end of a blustery day in Andalucía to lead by two over Spain’s Jacobo Pastor in second place on four under par, while Germany’s Allen John, Spanish duo Manuel Elvira and Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, and Finland’s Roope Kakko share third place on three under par.
The 32-year-old currently lies 113th on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and with a big week required to earn a spot in next week’s Challenge Tour Grand Final, he has started in the perfect way.
“I played really well, I played solid,” he said. “I got some great practice in over the last couple of days and everything felt pretty well the way it should have.
“The year has been so difficult that it’s hard to get any momentum, it’s hard to get any rhythm. The goal is to make the Grand Final. I played okay last week two days but it was a bit tricky the other two days so I think I need a third or fourth place finish this week to make it into next week, so that’s the goal.”
Only 15 players were under par on the opening day of the Challenge de Cádiz and with the wind swirling, Kearney admitted he did not expect anyone to shoot as low as his excellent 66.
“I thought, warming up, that it was going to be a tough day,” he said. “The wind was blowing a bit at 30kph and six under is good today, I was happy with that.
“The wind makes a difference on the front nine more than the back. There’s very little shelter on the front nine. You’re out, you’re on the coast, you’re on the seaside there. The back nine is very wooded so although it’s still blowing, you don’t necessarily feel it so if you can keep the flight low enough, it doesn’t affect it too much.
“It’s been great to get away. The Challenge Tour have done a great job just to put both events on. It’s been a tricky year, everyone is just happy to be away with card in hand, playing golf.”
Manuel Elvira, brother of four-time Challenge Tour winner Nacho, ended his round with a hole-in-one on the par three 18th hole to secure a tie for third place going into day two.
Seven players share seventh place on two under par, including England’s Matt Ford, Italian duo Enrico di Nitto and Lorenzo Scalise, Portugal’s Vitor Lopes, Santiago Tarrio Ben, of Spain, Denmark’s Niklas Norgaard Møller and amateur Eduard Rousaud, who chipped in on the last for birdie.
The second round of the Andalucía Challenge de Cádiz begins at 8am local time, with leader Kearney getting under way at 10.25am.