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Huizing looking well placed to take back Open title

Michael Hoey on the first green during the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle on Thursday
Picture: Arthur Allison
Tony McGee at Galgorm Castle

DUTCHMAN Daan Huizing certainly likes the Ballymena air or, more precisely, the Galgorm Castle golf course as he has set himself up for a possible a tilt at a second victory in the Northern Ireland Open.

Huizing recorded his maiden Challenge Tour victory at Galgorm two years ago and once again shared the lead after Thursday’s opening round of this year’s competition. He shared the lead at six-under-par 65 with John Hahn, Hayden Porteous and Corkonion Niall Turner, a trio of morning starters who were in the clubhouse long before Huizing completed his round. 

“I’m very pleased with my good start,” said Huizing.

“My game felt just out of the blocks as I was hitting great shots. I made a birdie at three which is such a tough hole, so that was a bonus. I made another at four. I did have a few missed opportunities but then a really nice finish with a birdie at 15 and a really long birdie putt on 16. Then just a good putt on 18 to finish.”

He added: “To switch up a gear and finish with three birdies in the last four holes is good and gives me a bit of momentum tomorrow. I’m in the lead which is a familiar position for me here but there is a lot of golf left to be played.”

The quartet of leaders has very little leeway as biting at their heels, just one shot back, is a posse of players including former European Tour winner Simon Thornton, a former regular on the Irish Tour, playing out of Royal County Down. 

Thornton was in an unusual group yesterday along with South African joint leader Porteous and Sebastien Gros, who shared a 66 with the Irish player. The trio carded an unusual aggregate of 16-under-par in the opening round.

Former Irish amateur international Turner, from Cork, leads the Irish challenger for the first prize of €27,200 with Thornton tucked in behind. Highly pleased with his opening round of 68 was Chris Selfridge, from up the road in Castledawson, one of the new boys on the Challenge Tour.

Selfridge, the 2013 and 2014 North of Ireland amateur champion, is having a fine first season in professional golf and he knows the Galgorm course exceptionally well. He could be a dark horse in the pack. Sharing Chris’ 68 is Peter Lawrie, a seasoned former European Tour player.

There is a strong Irish challenge just four shots behind the leaders as PGA Irish Region champion Niall Kearney, Simon Ward, Reeve Whitson and ex-North of Ireland semi-finalist  Brian Casey are all in a group on 69, one stroke ahead of the tournament ambassador Michael Hoey who hopes to debut over the weekend. He missed the cut in the last two years.

The leading amateur after the first round is Massereene man Tiernan McLarnon who, recently, won the Northern Ireland Strokeplay Championship, at Galgorm Castle, which earned him a starting spot in this event. He carded a creditable level par 71 and is handy placed to make the cut on Friday evening.

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