Sharvin three off the lead in Kenya; Irish start well
 Cormac Sharvin during his amateur days. Picture:  Pat Cashman

Cormac Sharvin during his amateur days. Picture: Pat Cashman

Cormac Sharvin got his 2016 Challenge Tour season off to a flying start when carded five birdies in a four-under-67 in the opening round of the Barclays Kenya Open.

The Ardglass man, who was one of five Irishmen in the 2015 Walker Cup side, is tied for 11th at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi and just three shots behind leader Jaco Ahlers.

South African Ahlers shot a seven-under-par 64 to lead by one stroke from Welshman Rhys Davies, Sweden's Oscar Lengden and Oscar Stark and Finland's Kalle Samooja.

Sharvin, who played well on the Algarve Pro Tour over the winter, was one of four Irish players to break par on day one.

West Waterford's Gary Hurley is tied for 26th after he made five birdies and two bogeys in a three-under 68.

Michael Hoey and Chris Selfridge signed for one-under par 70s and are just inside the cut mark in joint 53rd.

Ahlers showed his intent from the off, opening with an eagle before a run of birdies around the turn put him in control ahead of the other morning starters.

The more testing front nine offered fewer opportunities to score but a closing birdie meant the 34 year old ended Round One with a slim advantage over a group of players on six under par.

Ahlers earned a European Tour card at the end of last year after successfully navigating the marathon Qualifying School Final Stage, but he suggested that this appearance on the Road to Oman might not be a one-off, especially given the start he has made to the year.

“It was a very good start to the round,” he said. “I eagled the first which always gets some of the nerves out of the system and I played solid, the front nine especially.

“I made a few putts and a lot of good swings on the front nine, the back nine was a little bit more scruffy but I managed to birdie the last and it’s a nice score to finish on.

“I like the look of the course. It’s like a lot of African courses, they look pretty similar, and we play an event every year in Zimbabwe and two in Zambia and they look pretty much the same, and I just like the look of it – it’s a great South African-style course.

“I definitely feel the back nine is playing easier. It’s a lot longer as well, about 400 yards longer than the front nine, and there’s a lot more wedges you hit in and birdie opportunities on the back.

“Overall this week I think you’ll probably see the front nine playing a lot more difficult.

“I got a card at Q-School so I’ll probably be jumping a bit between the Challenge Tour and the European Tour throughout the summer, but it’s a good start to the year whatever happens.”

Five players were inseparable in tied second place after the opening 18 holes, with Welshman Rhys Davies and Kalle Samooja of Finland joined on six under par by a pair of Swedish Oscars, Lengden and Stark, and their compatriot Jens Dantorp.

Dantorp came within a putt of earning a European Tour card through the Road to Oman Rankings last year, a bogey on the final hole of the season at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final meaning it was heartbreak for the man from Malmö.

But the 27-year-old shrugged off that disappointment to start 2017 as if he intends to right those wrongs.

A further two Swedes, Niklas Lindstrom and Alexander Wennstam, are among those one shot further back on five under par, along with Dutchman Maarten Lafeber – a former winner of this event.

This is the 25th time the historic tournament has formed part of the Challenge Tour schedule and fittingly there was much for the local fans to cheer, most notably the performance of Simon Ngige, whose four under par round of 67 left him in a tie for 13th place.

Scores after round 1:

64 J Ahlers (RSA), 

65 J Dantorp (Swe), O Stark (Swe), R Davies (Wal), O Lengden (Swe), K Samooja (Fin), 

66 N Lindstrom (Swe), C Doak (Sco), J Kruyswijk (RSA), S Fernandez (Esp), M Lafeber (Ned), A Wennstam (Swe), 

67 B Virto (Esp), O Wilson (Eng), A Rai (Eng), C Lee (Sco), Cormac Sharvin (Nir), M Ovesen (Den), A Chesters (Eng), W Besseling (Ned), L Gagli (Ita), S Ngige (Ken), A Meronk (Pol), T Murray (Eng), B Robinson (Eng), G Boyd (Eng), B Easton (RSA), M Baldwin (Eng), 

68 B Evans (Eng), J Kunzenbacher (Ger), P Howard (Eng), S Ferreira (Por), M Wallace (Eng), F Laporta (Ita), Gary Hurley (Irl), L De Jager (RSA), R De Smidt (RSA), P Widegren (Swe), C Bull (Eng), A Saddier (Fra), R Saxton (Ned), 

69 A Odoh (Ngr), T Shadbolt (Eng), M Madsen (Den), C Mivis (Bel), J Girrbach (Sui), R James (Wal), P Tarver-Jones (Eng), M Delpodio (Ita), M Orrin (Eng), R McCarthy (Aus), M Lampert (Ger), M Williams (Zim), J Makitalo (Fin), A Nandwa (am) (Ken), 

70 D Odhiambo (Ken), R Charania (Ken), R Santos (Por), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), C Ford (Eng), N Johansson (Swe), J Roos (RSA), Michael Hoey (Nir), R Evans (Eng), D Van Driel (Ned), Chris Selfridge (Nir), J Rutherford (Eng), C Griffiths (Eng), M Laskey (Wal), S Soderberg (Swe), A Pavan (Ita), E Dubois (Fra) 

71 R McGowan (Eng), M Eggenberger (Sui), S Connor (Eng), D Law (Sco), S Engell Andersen (Ken), P Maddy (Eng), S Heisele (Ger), E España (Fra), A Rozner (Fra), F Bergamaschi (Ita), R Ainley (Ken), C Braeunig (Ger), H Casey (Eng), R Dinwiddie (Eng), C Sordet (Fra), K Hesbois (Bel), D Huizing (Ned), 

72 T Omuli (Ken), N Rokoine (Ken), M Ford (Eng), A Tadini (Ita), E Van Rooyen (RSA), V Riu (Fra), F Daux (Fra), J Hansen (Den), M Lundberg (Swe), S Brown (Eng), J Suri (USA), M Haastrup (Den), O Farr (Wal), A Velasco (Esp), D Indiza Anyonyi (Ken), A Connelly (Can), F Maccario (Ita), M Kinhult (Swe), M Kramer (Ger), N Geyger (Chi), S Forsström (Swe), H Joannes (Bel), J Van Der Vaart (Ned), 

73 B Rusch (Sui), O Lindell (Fin), J Guerrier (Fra), K Timbe (Ken), G Snow (Ken), J Lando Casanova (Fra), C Berardo (Fra), S Jeppesen (Swe), B Neil (Sco), N Ravano (Ita), 

74 D Van Tonder (RSA), J Senior (Eng), D Opati (Ken), F Wanzala (Uga), N Ngugi (Ken), G Porteous (Eng), M Fenasse (Fra), J Karanja (Ken), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), V Perez (Fra), K Bollo (am) (Ken), 

75 B Njoroge (Ken), D Foos (Ger), R Kellett (Sco), E Di Nitto (Ita), C Wangai (Ken), N Simwa (Ken), J Brun (Fra), A Schwartz (Fra), D Wakhu (Ken), 

76 N Mudanyi (Ken), S Shah (am) (Ken), 

77 J Sjöholm (Swe), G Kubwa (am) (Ken), 

78 J Okello (Ken), J Madoya (Ken), C Blomstrand (Swe), J Karichu (am) (Ken), 

79 N Molell (Tan), J Allan (Eng), 

81 B Simwa (Ken), 

84 A Is-Haq (am) (Ken), 

** M Omondi (Ken), B Hellgren (Swe)