Hoey heads the Irish Challenge in Kenya

Bernie McGuire
Bernie McGuire

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Michael Hoey is best of the Irish at the halfway stage of The Challenge Tour’s season-opening Barclays Kenya Open.

Having opened with a stunning 66 yesterday, Hoey didn’t quite reproduce that form today in a one-over-par 72; yet his 36-hole performance is good enough for a share of 15th on -4 for the championship.

With three bogeys and two birdies on the card today, the Northern Irishman is well-placed heading into the weekend, just six shots behind the lead as he looks for a fast start to the new season.

West Waterford’s Gary Hurley was next best of the Irish challenge after a fine 69 on day two has him at two-under-par at the halfway point.

A fine eagle three on 10 mixed with one further gain and a dropped shot was the highlight reel of an otherwise solid opening performance.
Cormac Sharvin is one shot further back after a one-under-par 70 today. Sharvin had got to four-under for the round at one point but finished with four bogeys in his last eight to drop down the leaderboard.

The news wasn’t so good for Gavin Moynihan as his woes showed no sign of abating in Kenya. He followed up an opening 72 with a second round 73 to miss the cut by two strokes on three-over-par.

As the search for his best form continues, Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee bowed out of the championship on a plus seven total also.

At the top of the leaderboard, Max Schmitt continued his excellent start to life on the European Challenge Tour by carding a second round of 65 to take a two-shot lead into the weekend of the season-opener.

The 19-year-old, who is making his first Challenge Tour appearance this week, followed up an opening 67 with another excellent showing, carding seven birdies – including an exquisite chip-in at the par three 11th – to reach ten under par after 36 holes.

Making just his fourth start as a professional, the young German has quickly made the step up from the satellite Pro Golf Tour, where he triumphed three times as an amateur last season.

Following such a promising first two rounds, Schmitt admits he is excited for what the weekend will bring at Nairobi’s Muthaiga Golf Club.

“It was a perfect round,” he said. “I had just the one bogey, which wasn’t nice, but I came back with a lot of birdies after that so I am quite pleased right now.

“I really got going over the back nine. Although I started with a bogey on ten, which was disappointing as it is quite an easy hole, I had a great run of birdies – which was unbelievable.

“It’s really great to be leading. I am really excited for the next two days as I don’t think the first two could have gone any better.

“My ball striking is really good right now, my wedge shots have been pure – I hit only one bad wedge shot today – and apart from that I have been putting everything within ten feet.

“I’m not really used to being in the lead but I am going to try everything to stay at the top of the leaderboard. I did win three times last year though which I think will help me over the weekend.

“It is a very big event which I really want to win.”

Two adrift of Schmitt is Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen, who set the early clubhouse target at eight under par after a second consecutive round of 67.

One shot further back are Swedish duo Simon Forsstrom and Sebastian Soderberg. Soderberg has previously tasted success in East Africa, having triumphed in the 2016 Barclays Kenya Open at neighbouring Karen Country Club.

Leading the home charge is Mohit Mediratta, who is three under par overall following a second round of 70 – comfortably inside the cut line which fell at one over par.

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