Naas’ Jack Hume birdied the last two holes to open with a six-birdie 67 and lie just two shots off the lead in the Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge in the UAE.
The 23-year old former Walker Cup player — set for the Second Stage of Q-School next week with Kevin Phelan, Gary Hurley, Jonny Caldwell, Stephen Grant, Chris Selfridge, Cormac Sharvin, Tim Rice, Declan Loftus and Brian Casey - is tied for seventh on five under par at Al Hamra Golf Club, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.
Selfridge is tied 25th after a three under 69 on a day when Hurley made just two birdies in a one over 73 to lie tied 79th with Cormac Sharvin a shot further back in 89th after a 74 that featured an eagle, two birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey six.
Max Orrin and Pontus Widegren fired, seven under par 65s to set the course record and lead the penultimate event of the Challenge Tour season by one stroke from Scott Henry, Espen Kofstad, Romain Langasque and Martin Wiegele.
The stakes this week are high for everyone, though Sweden’s Widegren – currently 61st on the Road to Oman – is in particular need of a good performance, with only the top 46 in the Rankings qualifying for next week’s season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final.
“I’m trying to see it as a ‘nothing to lose’ situation,” said the 26 year old. “There’s pressure, but I really feel very loose this week – the goal is to qualify for Grand Final, but I’m just trying to stay loose and keep playing well.
“I started off quite well last week in China but I couldn’t really keep it going, I maybe tried a little too hard to stay up there. But I like the weather here and I’m playing some good golf.
“It’s been a very tough year, and I’ve struggled to put the scores together for a long time. That changed in Kazakhstan, and a top ten there is what got me into these tournaments at the end of the year to give myself a chance of keeping my card.
“I had a crazy start today, everything just went my way and went in. There’s a few good opportunities early on, and I gave myself a lot of chances, and if you take advantage of it you can get off to a fast start.
“I managed to make some really good putts on the other holes as well, and it just kept going. I’m enjoying my time here, it’s a lovely place and I like this kind of golf in the UAE.”
Orrin, a two-time Challenge Tour winner, is also targeting a good performance as he looks to climb from his current position of 21st into the top 16, who will all earn European Tour cards come close of play next week.
The Englishman arrived in the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates on the back of a tied fourth finish in the Foshan Open and was pleased to have maintained that form.
“I’m very pleased,” said the 22 year old. “I played well last week, managed to put four good rounds together and finish strong, and I think Sunday gave me a lot of confidence so this week I’m just trying to do the same thing.
“I’m coming into form at the right time. There’s a lot of points up for grabs and this is the time of season where, if you haven’t been playing well, you can have a couple of good weeks and it’s job done.
“That’s the reality of it, and it’s lovely if you can find form, so hopefully I can just keep playing the way I’m playing – I quite like the heat and I’ve done well here in the Middle East in the past, so hopefully I can just keep enjoying it tomorrow and the rest of the week.”
Selfridge is less than €11,000 outside the top 45, which means he needs a Top-6 finish at worst to make it to the Grand Final and avoid the Second Stage of Qualifying School. Hurley needs a Top-3.
Scores after round 1:
65 P Widegren (Swe), M Orrin (Eng),
66 E Kofstad (Nor), M Wiegele (Aut), S Henry (Sco), R Langasque (Fra),
67 R Fox (Nzl), G Porteous (Eng), N Cullen (Aus), Jack Hume (Irl), G Forrest (Sco),
68 J Dantorp (Swe), R Kellett (Sco), S Forsström (Swe), P Maddy (Eng), R Santos (Por), J White (Eng), M Kinhult (Swe), J Edfors (Swe), D Stewart (Sco), D Law (Sco), C Ford (Eng), J Girrbach (Sui), W Besseling (Ned),
69 M Lampert (Ger), J Smith (Eng), M Schneider (Ger), S Jeppesen (Swe), Chris Selfridge (Nir), J Makitalo (Fin), P Oriol (Esp), B Ritthammer (Ger), M Søgaard (Den), C Blomstrand (Swe), N Ravano (Ita), A Rai (Eng), J Stalter (Fra), B Poke (Den),
70 O Stark (Swe), L Gagli (Ita), S Fernandez (Esp), B Stow (Eng), M Armitage (Eng), A Saddier (Fra), R Saxton (Ned), M Delpodio (Ita), C Del Moral (Esp), D Perrier (Fra), R Enoch (Wal), J Heath (Eng), A Tadini (Ita), S Tiley (Eng),
71 V Riu (Fra), D Huizing (Ned), D Gaunt (Aus), D Van Driel (Ned), A Björk (Swe), B Hellgren (Swe), J Lima (Por), M Ovesen (Den), D Frittelli (RSA), A Karlsson (Swe), P Angles (Esp), E Johansen (Nor), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), R Thomas (am),(Ind),
72 J Guerrier (Fra), T Lawrence (RSA), P Mejow (Ger), A Knappe (Ger), J Van Der Vaart (Ned), M Pavon (Fra), M Nixon (Eng), G King (Eng), J Barnes (Eng), K Eriksson (Swe), J Senior (Eng), J Sjöholm (Swe),
73 T Murray (Eng), Gary Hurley (Irl), A Velasco (Esp), M Tullo (Chi), T Detry (Bel), S Brown (Eng), O Farr (Wal), E Dubois (Fra), P Whiteford (Sco), M Harradine (am),(Sui),
74 C Sordet (Fra), G Migliozzi (Ita), M Trappel (Aut), A Pavan (Ita), S Soderberg (Swe), S Heisele (Ger), K Samooja (Fin), Cormac Sharvin (Nir), C Bouniol (Fra),
75 S Walker (Eng),
76 S Piaget (Mon), J Lando Casanova (Fra), P Dedek (Cze),
77 C Mills (Wal),
78 P Howard (Eng), J Shepherd (Eng),
** J Lara (Esp)