Niall Turner showed his growing maturity as a tour player when he opened with a five under par 67 to lie just a shot off the pace in the $300,000 Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic.
Playing in just his second season on the Asian Tour, the 28-year old Muskerry player went out in three under par 33 thanks to birdies at the par four 11th, 14th and 18th holes.
A double bogey six at the second, where he lost his drive up a tree and had to go back to the tee, could have proved to be a negative turning point for the former Irish international.
But instead he dug deeper than ever at the Nick Faldo designed Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Rea, picking up birdies at the par-five third and sixth and birdie threes at the seventh and eighth to finish the day just a stroke behind Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun, who hit a course record 66 to lead on six under.
“It was a really good ball-striking day,” Turner said. “Think I only missed two greens. Got unlucky on two, hit it right and got stuck up on a tree and had to go back to the tee and made double there. But other than that, I played great. Putted nicely and hit it great.
“I was pretty proud of that. In the past, I would have got cranky and let a few shots drift away. I’m happy with how I shot four under coming home.
“It was windy but I was hitting my driver long and made it easy on some of the holes where I got the wedge or nine in hand which made a big difference. It definitely wasn’t easy.”
Turner finished 90th on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit in his rookie season and returned to the Qualifying School to try, unsuccessfully, to improve his status.
This season, he has made one cut from two official events, finishing tied for 20th in the Zaykabar Myanmar Open to earn $3,300.
He failed to qualify for The Open at the Asian International Final Qualifying event in Thailand two weeks ago, finishing 56th after rounds of 81 and 77.
But he believes he is slowly getting to grips with life on the Asian circuit and he’s hopeful about the future.
“The first year, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Everything was new, the food, the heat and the time zones. But now I know what to do now, how to prepare for tournaments and what to expect from course. I’m feeling more comfortable out here.”