Turner leads home challenge in Ballymena

Daan Huizing. Picture: Getty Images

Asian Tour, Challenge Tour, European Tour, Europro Tour, EPD Tour, Irish Region or amateur - Ireland's menagerie of golfers got off to a generally positive start in the Northern Ireland Open in Association with Sphere Global and Ulster Bank at Galgorm Castle.

Ten of the 23-strong contingent broke par with Asian Tour regular Niall Turner from Muskerry, tied for the lead with 2013 winner Daan Huizing, American John Hahn, South African Haydn Porteous and Spain's Emilio Cuartero Blanco thanks to a six under 65.

With his injury problems largely behind him, Turner has quietly climbed the world rankings to 580th to become the fifth highest ranked player from the Republic after Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington, Kevin Phelan and Ruaidhri McGee and the 10th highest ranked from the entire island of Ireland.

That the former Irish Amateur Close runner up has done it by playing just four counting events this year is remarkable.

Simon Thornton's five under 66 left him tied sixth while 68s for Peter Lawrie and rookie Chris Selfridge left them tied 28th on three under.

It was also a good day for players who play most of their golf on the lower tours with Simon Ward, Brian Casey and Reeve Whitson carding 69s to join Irish Professional champion Niall Kearney on two under par in a share of 38th.

Michael Hoey, the Tournament Ambassador, opened with a one under par 70 to match Michel McDermott in joint 56th.

The five-time European Tour winner is attempting to make the weekend's play at home event for the first time in three years.

65 H Porteous (RSA), D Huizing (Ned), Niall Turner (Irl), E Cuartero Blanco (Esp), J Hahn (USA), 

66 R Evans (Eng), S Arnold (Aus), B Stone (RSA), S Manley (Wal), S Wakefield (Eng), S Gros (Fra), Simon Thornton (Irl), R Kellett (Sco), E Goya (Arg), T Sluiter (Ned), J Glennemo (Swe), 

67 N Kimsey (Eng), C Sordet (Fra), J McLeary (Sco), G Woolgar (Eng), S Einhaus (Ger), D Law (Sco), J Winther (Den), V Riu (Fra), 

68 Chris Selfridge (NIr), Peter Lawrie (Irl)

69 Niall Kearney (Irl), Simon Ward (Irl), Reeve Whitson (NIr), Brian Casey (Irl), 

70 Michael McDermott (Irl), Michael Hoey (NIr) 

71 Chris Carvill (NIr), Stephen Grant (Irl), Michael McGeady (Irl), Tiarnan McLarnon (am) (NIr) 

72 Brendan McGovern (Irl)

73 Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), Gareth Shaw (NIr), Damien McGrane (Irl), Colm Campbell (am) (NIr), 

74 Alan Dunbar (NIr) 

75 Gary Wardlow (NIr), John Ross Galbraith (am) (NIr), 

76 Richard Kilpatrick (NIr)