Niall Kearney chips to the sixth in the second round of the Irish PGA Championship at Seapoint last year. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieNiall Kearney made a positive start to his bid for an Asian Tour card when he opened with a one under 71 in the first stage in Thailand.

The Dubliner, 23, finished the opening day tied for 16th place at Springfield Royal Country Club, one of four qualifying venues for next week’s final stage.

The top 20 percent from each venue will progress to will qualify for next week’s Final Stage, where the top-40 and ties will earn playing rights on the 2012 Asian Tour.

A Walker Cup player in 2009, Kearney played on the Challenge Tour for the past two seasons but his progress was hampered by a shoulder injury.

Last term he finished 108th in the fial Challenge Tour rankings with earnings of 10,680 from 22 starts.

He was exempt into the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in December but failed to qualify for the final stage and will only get limited starts on the Challenge Tour this season.

If he makes it to the final stage in Asia he will be joined at the finals by former amateur rival Niall Turner, who finished 90th on the Asian Tour money list last term with earnings of $27,803 from 15 starts.