Kearney remains on track at Asian Tour Q-School
Niall Kearney. Picture: Getty Images

Niall Kearney. Picture: Getty Images

Niall Kearney is the only Irishman inside the qualifying mark at halfway in the First Stage of the Asian Tour Qualifying School in Thailand.

The former Walker Cup player and two-time Irish Professional champion (29) shot a second successive 70 at Rayong Green Valley Country Club, two hours south of Bangkok, to share 15th place on two-under-par at a venue where the top 35 after four rounds will qualify for next week's 90-hole Final Stage.

Limerick's Tim Rice, the reigning Irish Professional champion, dropped three shots in his last four holes to post a 72 and lies 58th at the same venue on four-over, three shots outside the top 35.

It's also an uphill battle now for Black Bush's Stephen McCarthy and Headfort's Rory McNamara who complete the quartet of Irish hopefuls.

McCarthy shot a second successive, three-over 74 and is 53rd at St Andrews 2000 and at six-over, he's three shots outside the qualifying mark.

McNamara shot a four-over 75 at Windsor Park and Golf Club to lie seven shots outside the top 20 who will progress.

Kearney was four-under par for his round with four holes to play but he triple-bogeyed the par-four sixth, his 15th, and bogeyed the par-five seventh before undoing some of the damage with a birdie at the ninth.

The Irish challengers are among 346 players from more than 35 countries attempting to make the leading 30 percent at each of the four First Stage venues who will qualify for the Final Stage from January 10- 14 where the top-35 and ties after 90 holes will earn playing rights on the Asian Tour for 2018.

Muskerry's Niall Turner is already guaranteed some starts as he has a partial medical exemption.

Australia's Josh Younger added a 68 to his opening 64 to lead by four shots on 10-under at St. Andrews 2000 while at Silky Oak Country Club, American Nick Arman shot 65 to lead by a stroke from compatriot Ben Crancer on nine-under.

Americans Dino A. Giacomazzi (67) and Han Lee (70) lead by a shot from Thailand's Chirat Jirasuwan on eight-under par at Windsor Park Golf Club.

England's Gary King shot a 66 at Rayong Green Valley Country Club to lead by a shot from Chile's Cristobal del Solar (66) and Thailand's Pasavee Lertvilai on nine-under.

Asian Tour Qualifying School, First Stage

St. Andrews 2000 (Par 71, Current qualifying mark +3)

  • Scores
  • 1 Josh YOUNGER (AUS) 64 68 -10
  • 53 Stephen MCCARTHY (IRL) 74 74 +6

Rayong Green Valley Country Club, Rayon (Par 71, Current qualifying mark +1)

  • Scores
  • 1 Gary KING (ENG) 67 66 -9
  • 15 Niall KEARNEY (IRL) 70 70 -2
  • 58 Tim RICE (IRL) 74 72 +4

Windsor Park & Golf Club (Par 71, Current qualifying mark -1)

  • Scores
  • 1 Dino A. GIACOMAZZI (USA) 67 67 -8
  • 1 Han LEE (USA) 64 70 -8
  • 46 Rory MCNAMARA (IRL) 73 75 +6

Silky Oak Country Club, Rayong (Par 71, Current qualifying mark Level)

  • Scores
  • 1 Nick ARMAN (USA) 68 65 -9