Niall Turner survived sweltering temperatures and heat index that rose above 102F (39c) to remain just a shot off the lead in the Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic on the Asian Tour.
The 28 year old from Muskerry, where the temperature was a comfortable 48F (10C) on Thursday, fired a second successive 67 to get to 10 under par at the halfway stage of the inaugural $300,000 event.
That left him just a stroke off the pace as Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil hit a 64 and Korea’s Kim Hyung-sung a 65 to lead on 11 under 133 at the Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap.
“Front nine, maybe it was the hottest I’ve experienced in Asia,” said 6 ft 5 inch Turner, who birdied the fifth, sixth and eighth to turn in 33. “There was no wind and it was just breathless out there. Humidity was off the charts and I was glad the winds picked up a bit on the back nine. It was hot.”
The former Irish international birdied the par-five 13th and 16th coming home to remain on track to challenge for his first major professional win in just his second season on the Asian Tour.
“Putted well today,” he said after using the blade 26 time. “Made a lot of good par saves on the last six or seven holes. Hit it good again to give myself some chances.
“Kept the bogeys off the card which was nice. Hit a lot of iron shots pretty close. Started off slow, even par after four and then hit it to a foot on five and got on from there.
“It’s great. One shot back. Looking forward to it, should be fun. I’ve not been in this position before on the Asian Tour and I am looking forward to it. Just try to do the same as yesterday and today. The rest will take care of itself.”
Given the weather, Turner might not be in his comfort zone physically. But he feels right at home in Asia.
“Love it here,” he said. “People are very friendly and the course is fantastic. I’ll definitely come back to Cambodia. I might go to the temples today if I can cool down. I’m looking forward to that as I’ve heard they are phenomenal.”
A major tour win worth $47,500 would be a huge step forward for the Univeristy of Minnesota graduate, who played on mini tours in the US before heading out to Asia last year after failed attempts to come through the Q-School on both sides of the Atlantic.
As an amateur he represented Ireland at under 18, under 21 and senior level, playing in the Jaques Leglise Trophy and winning the Under 17 Trophy in the 2000 Irish Boys Close Championship at Strandhill.
In 2007 he reached the Irish Amateur Close final at Cork Golf Club but lost to future European Tour professional and Irish Open champion Shane Lowry by 4 and 3.
On the US college circuit, he was a member of the 2007 Big-10 Conference Championship Team and a two time Honorable Mention All-American, winning the inaugural Gopher Invitational and finishing 10th at the NCAA Championships in 2006.
Nearly three years after turning professional, he notched his maiden victory the same day Louis Oosthuizen won The Open at St Andrews, claiming the 54-hole South Dakota Open Pro-Am at The Bluffs Course in Vermillion by three strokes on 20 under par.
“It was a barren stretch there for a while; didn’t think I’d ever win something,” Turner said at the time. “Putting was all the difference for me today. I didn’t really struggle hitting the ball, but I haven’t putting well for like the last four years. For some reason, this weekend, I was.”