Waterford Castle's Kevin Phelan might have played just a handful of competitive rounds since losing his card last year but took his first big step towards winning it back by moving into contention at the Joburg Open.
The 24-year old former Walker Cup player missed the cut in his first start of 2015 in Delhi last week but two closing birdies on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington gave him a four under 68 and a share of 11th at halfway.
six-birdie day left the touring professional for Mount Juliet on eight under par and just four strokes behind South Africa’s Wallie Coetsee, who moved into a one-shot lead on 12 under as he added a six under par 65 on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s West Course to his opening 66 on the East Course.
South Africans have won the last five stagings of this event and six of the last eight, and Coetsee had compatriots Garth Mulroy and Tjaart van der Walt one behind as well as England’s Simon Dyson.
“There were no cameras on me the whole day, so it was quite easy out there,” said Coetsee, who had five birdies, one bogey, and an eagle at the 15th. “I made one stupid bogey out there on the seventh, but I enjoyed the round a lot.
“There were a few sucker pins out there, so I went for middle green. I didn’t attack too much and just stayed calm, which paid off.
“This is a marathon, not a race. You have to pull the horse back a bit, you can’t run too fast. We’ll let the horse loose on Sunday on the back nine.
“For now it’s about making solid pars and keeping the battery at 100 per cent, keep it going and you’ll be ready when you need to be.
“Leading means a lot, but tomorrow we start from level par again. I’ll just give it my best. I’m looking forward to this weekend and seeing what happens.”
While Phelan can be pleased with his effort so far, it was a short week for the other three Irishmen in action.
Peter Lawrie following a five under 66 on the West with a two over 74 on the East to miss the cut by a stroke on three under par.
Maybin's disappointing 73 on the West left him three shots outside the cut mark on one under while recently appointed European RYder Cup captain Clarke shot a one over 72 on the West to miss out by five strokes.