Ruaidhri McGee and Paul McBride were the pick of the Irish after the pair fired six-under par 66s on an opening day where the scoring took off at the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
Rosapenna’s McGee and The Island’s McBride carded thirteen birdies between them, with McGee managing to negotiate Samsun Golf Club without a blemish on his card.
The pair find themselves four back in a share of seventh spot after a stern day one target was set by Francesco Laporta at minus-ten.
With seven Irish taking their chance in Turkey this week, Conor O’Rourke was another who fared well after a four-under par 68 on day one. The Naas man, whose season has been disrupted by injuries to date, was delighted to find an exceptional eight birdies in a round that was so very nearly a special one, as he looks to kick-start his Challenge Tour career.
“I played lots of nice stuff,” said O’Rourke who sits in a big tie for 21st at minus-four. “I had a plan and I stuck to it pretty much all day – didn’t really make any mistakes.
“I made a bit of a silly double-bogey but managed to bounce back with two closing birdies so overall I’m pretty happy. Just a good solid round to start to week, something to build on and I’m looking forward to pushing ahead tomorrow now.”
Cormac Sharvin was the only other Irishman to manage parity or better after he traded three bogeys and three birdies to find himself already ten shots off the pace and in a share of 94th after day one.
The news wasn’t so good for West Waterford’s Gary Hurley (+2), Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell (+4) and Tramore’s Robin Dawson (+4) who will all need to go low tomorrow to ensure they remain in Turkey for the weekend.
Day one was all about Laporta at the top, however, who started the European Challenge Tour season in style as he carded four eagles in a 10-under par round of 62 to lead in Turkey.
The Italian will take a two-stroke lead into the second day at Samsun Golf Club ahead of Darius van Driel on eight-under par and Niclas Johansson, Antoine Rozner, Connor Syme and Toby Tree on seven-under par.
It was a day of low scoring in Turkey after the morning starters were forced to deal with a blanket of sea mist, and Laporta was the one who took full advantage of the benign afternoon conditions.
With eagles at the second, fourth, 14th and 15th holes, Laporta sets the Challenge Tour record for most eagles in a single round and equals the worldwide record, joining Gordon Brand Jnr, Mikko Ilonen and Li Haotong, who are the only men to card four in a single round on the European Tour.
The 28-year-old admitted to being nervous as he made his way down the stretch but was delighted to better his previous career record of nine-under par.
“I played one of my best rounds ever today,” Laporta said. “It was my lowest round and now I hope to turn it into a good week.
“My lowest score was nine under and I was already ten under on the 17th tee box and I made a drop there and then got a good birdie on the last hole. I was a bit nervous but it’s normal.
“I chipped in twice and I made a two on number two when I holed it from about 15 yards. The other one was on 14 when I hit a four iron to about three yards and holed the putt.
“I was a bit nervous on the last two or three holes but I really enjoyed the round.”
Laporta is seeing his hard work in the off-season pay off, with his opening round in Turkey adding to his tied 11th place finish at the Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla and his victory at the Italian Championship two weeks ago.
“I played the Jordan Mixed Open and played alright and then I played two weeks ago at the Italian Championship and I won it,” he said. “It’s the first tournament of the real season, so it’s a good start.
“I worked hard in the off season. I worked hard in the gym, I practised hard so let’s see what the rest of the season brings.
“It’s another day tomorrow so I’m going to focus on that and forget this round. I want to be focused on the second round and not think too much about the first round.”
Behind the quartet on seven-under par is a group of seven players on six-under with seven more making up the top-20, one shot further back on five under.
The second round will begin at 7.20am local time, with Mathieu Decottignies-Lafon, Bryce Easton and Jack McDonald in the first group.
Full Scoring HERE – http://www.europeantour.com/challengetour/season=2019/tournamentid=2019732/leaderboard/index.html#/leaderboard
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