Tom McKibbin only got into this week’s Big Green Egg German Challenge at the last minute but he made the most of that call-up with a five-under 67 in his opening round to sit inside the top-five.
The Galgorm man signed for five birdies in a bogey-free outing to sit in fifth place, three shots off the early lead held by Slovakia’s Tadeas Tetak at Wittelsbacher Golfclub on the Challenge Tour.
The 19-year-old sits 28th on the Road to Mallorca standings needing to break into the top-20 to earn promotion to the DP World Tour next season and another big week would help him in that regard.
But he is chasing down Tetak at the top, the 22-year-old Slovak racking up eight birdies in a bogey-free round of his own to open up a one-shot lead over Spain’s Manuel Elvira, who carded a seven-under 65.
“If I can stick to this game plan over the next three days, I will be very happy,” said Tetak, a graduate of the University of Central Florida.
“I wasn’t overly aggressive, and I just stuck to my strengths by hitting good numbers and then took advantage when the opportunity presented itself.
“You can be aggressive off the tee but if you go off line then you are going to get stuck behind the trees and leave yourself having to chip out sideways. I focused on hitting clubs that didn’t bring high numbers on my scorecard into consideration.
“Golf isn’t very big in Slovakia. There are only six or seven tournament standard golf courses in the country because football and hockey are the main sports. Golf is definitely on the rise and hopefully it’s going to keep getting bigger over the next few years and I can play a part in that.”
An eagle, two birdies and two bogeys led to a two-under 70 for Ruaidhri McGee, which has him in a share of 26th, while Dermot McElroy and John Murphy were the other two Irishmen to finish under-par after a pair of one-under 71s.
Five birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey for Charlie Williams has him sitting just outside the cut line after a level-par 72, while Conor Purcell has some ground to make up after a two-over 74.