Saturday, November 29, 2014




Irish No 1 Niall Kearney staked his claim to be the PGA’s No 1 after an explosive start at the Titleist PGA Play-Offs in Turkey today.
The 26-year-old Royal Dublin pro, making his debut in the end-of-season showdown, holed his approach shot on the opening hole of Antalya Golf Club's PGA Sultan course for an eagle and never looked back as he added five more birdies – with just one dropped shot – to set the pace with a six-under-par 65 at the £15,000 tournament.
Two shots adrift was fellow debutant and countryman Colm Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance Ltd), who also dropped one shot, offset by five birdies.
Defending champion Greg Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) , who retained his Scottish Order of Merit title, opened with a 68 to share third spot with recent Tour School participant David Dixon (Enmore Golf), Alex Belt (Bridlington Links) and Jason Levermore (Channels), the latter just 48 hours after he won the Golfplan Insurance PGA Pro-Captain Challenge over the same course.
The tournament, featuring the strongest assembled field in its ninth staging, will not only see the crowning of the PGAs No 1, but will also determine three of the players in next year’s GB and I PGA Cup team and see 10 players secure a spot in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next spring.
Kearney, who could achieve all three, was more than satisfied with his opening round, which was played in glorious sunshine and not a hint of wind.
“I was very consistent,” he said.
“The swing felt good as I was hitting all the greens and giving myself plenty of chances and managed to hole a few putts as well.
“I got off to a great start holing my second shot on the first. I then parred the second and birdied the third so I was three-under through three.”
He added: “It feels fantastic to be part of the tournament. I absolutely get the play-offs and what’s at stake here as you can qualify for things we dream of. It’s just great to be part of it.”
Moriarty, who finished second to Kearney in the Irish OOM, said: “I played lovely. It’s such a nice place to play golf and it’s a great course but you have to play well to score round here.
“It’s my first time and it’s great to be here. But having not played the play-offs before I don’t what the scoring is like to be in hunt but there’s a couple of decent knocks and if the conditions are this good you’re not going to get it any easier but you still have to play good golf.”


Hutcheon (above), who took the title in a play-off with a Matt Cort last year, admitted he wasn't firing on all cylinders but was more than content with his opening 68.
“I was pretty happy with it,” he said.
“I didn’t strike the ball magnificently but I kept it in play and had a good couple of two putts from long range. I was just plodding along pretty solidly and got an eagle at 16 which got me to three-under which helped. 
"Not a bad day and I was by no means on fire. If you’d offered me 68 before I started I’d have taken it so I'm quite happy.
“I think 65 is a good score out there today so there’s a bit of work to catch up. There’s still 36 holes to go, it’s a tough course and you’ve got to be careful. You can get a bit unlucky and there’s trouble in a lot of places.”





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