Shaw and Selfridge — two sides of the same Challenge Tour coin

Shaw and Selfridge — two sides of the same Challenge Tour coin

Sihwan Kim. Picture by Phil Ingli

Professional golf is a cruel mistress. If you don’t believe us, just ask Lurgan man Gareth Shaw.

Sitting in the former KGB rest home that doubles as the hotel for this week’s Kazakhstan Open is tough enough. But it’s even harder when you’ve gone from the Top 10 after round one to twiddling your thumbs for the weekend. And all this after a recent upsurge in form that did nothing more than raise hopes that success was just around the corner.

Four under and tied for seventh starting the day in one of the biggest events of the year, Shaw was five under for the tournament with 11 holes to go and finished up missing the cut by three shots after dropping eight strokes in the next 10 holes.

A closing 79 was hard to take for a player who is 60th in the money list and struggling to make it as far as the Grand Final in Oman.

Considering Shaw finished fifth in the Irish Open in 2013 and then 13th in the Open de France the following week to earn a quick €100,000, the past few seasons have been hard.

Injury problems haven’t helped but the plus side is that he still has time to turn his year on its head with events in Rome, Ireland and China remaining before the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman. Then there's Q-School.

Just as Shaw has found lady luck conspiring against him in recent times, she smiled on others in Almaty on Friday.

American Sihwan Kim took the halfway lead on a day dominated by the two holes-in-one – and two cars won – by Denmark’s Jeppe Pape Huldahl and Dutchman Maarten Lefaber.

All five of the par threes at Nurtau GC had a new Audi on offer for an ace by promoters from the start of the week and a remarkable morning saw Huldahl hole on the first hole – his tenth – from 148 metres with a wedge, winning an Audi A4 and a Perrelet watch valued at $101,000.

Within half an hour Lefaber had holed his seven iron tee shot on the 169-metre 16th hole to win a brand new Audi A6.

“I didn’t really believe it when it went in,” said 33 year old Huldahl. “I’ve made two holes-in-one before but never in a Challenge Tour event, this was the first.

“It’s the best feeling, I was a bit dizzy afterwards and didn’t really know what to do! It’s just a great bonus – you don’t stand on the tee thinking about winning the car. I don’t know how many times I’ve played par threes and not won the car that’s on offer, so it’s never in your mind.

“I just love it here in Kazakhstan. I got the course record a couple of years ago, now this – I wish I could play here every week.”

Forty year old Lafeber said: “I’d just made two stupid bogeys in a row and I was disappointed, so I thought I’d just hit a seven iron, and I actually looked at the car one more time before I hit it and thought ‘why not?’ It was just one of those moments.

“It went straight at it, never left the pin, just hopped once, checked and dropped. I actually drive an A6 at home and was looking for a new car right now, so this is perfect timing for me to get a new one.”

Kim followed up an opening round of 64 with a fine three under par 69 to lead by two shots, helped by holing for an eagle two on the third hole, his 12th, with a wedge from 129 yards.

It wasn’t just a tough day for Shaw, it was a mildly disappointing one for Ruaidhri McGee, who slipped nine shots behind Kim to tied 27th after a 72.  

As for Chris Selfridge a three over 75 dropped him 42 places to tied 54th on level par but that in itself was a triumph. Having gone to the turn in 41,  played his last six in two under to make it on the mark —  his 10th successive cut made from 10 starts since he turned professional in May,

At 52nd in the Road to Oman standings, Selfridge needs a couple of decent weeks to secure his Grand Final place while a win would catapult him into the top 15 and straight onto the European Tour.

Kazakhstan Open, Nurtau GC (Par 72)

133 S Kim (USA) 64 69, 

135 S Gros (Fra) 68 67, S Norris  (RSA) 68 67, 

136 M Søgaard  (Den) 64 72, J Hansen  (Den) 63 73, 

137 J Fahrbring (Swe) 68 69, T Tree (Eng) 67 70, J McLeary  (Sco) 68 69, J Doherty  (Sco) 69 68, 

138 D Coupland (Eng) 69 69, J Winther (Den) 66 72, C Shinkwin (Eng) 69 69, S Soderberg (Swe) 69 69, 

139 J Robinson (Eng) 71 68, R Davies (Wal) 70 69, 

142 R McGee (Irl) 70 72, 

144 C Selfridge  (Nir) 69 75

MC G Shaw (Nir) 68 79.