Credit: Mena Golf Tour
KUWAIT CITY — Joe Heraty kept his emotions in check and pulled off his career-best round on the MENA Golf Tour to get his nose in front after the opening round of the inaugural Sahara Kuwait Championship on Monday.
The 25-year-old Englishman, whose father was diagnosed with brain tumor last week, fired a sizzling eight-under 62 to open up a two-shot lead over his compatriot Stuart Archibald and Fernand Osther of the Netherlands.
England’s Craig Hinton, the winner of the Ascorp Golf Citizen Abu Dhabi Open two weeks ago, headed the chasing pack in a five-man group which included Lebanon’s Peter Badawi.
Scotland’s Jack McDonald, Fredrik From of Sweden and England’s Daniel Owen completed the group tied for fourth at five-under 65 as former English cricketer Craig Kieswetter, playing for the first time on the MENA Golf Tour, kept himself firmly in contention, carding a four-under 66.
The day belonged young Heraty, who flew off the gate in style, making back-to-back birdies to set the tone for an excellent round that contained just one bogey.
“I was just thinking about my father all the time, but managed to keep the round going. I had everything under control. I drove the ball well and holed lots of good putts,” said the Leeds native, his voice choking with emotion.
Playing in his very first event on the MENA Golf Tour, Netherland’s Osther went bogey-free in his opening 65, studded with three birdies in each half.
“Played really nicely. I don’t think I missed any green. Basically I was bang on target. Gave myself plenty of birdie opportunities and made good use of the par-5s,” said Osther, who made birdies on both the two long holes.
“If you can drive well off the tee, you can post a good score and that’s exactly what I did to keep the ball in play,” said 28-year-old Dutch golfer, who turned professional in 2012.
“I like the course. It’s a bit wide open on the front nine, but it becomes more challenging, especially after the 13th due to the narrow fairways,” said Osther, who plies his trade on the Pro Golf Tour in Europe.
Cricketer-turned golfer Kieswetter, who represented England in 46 one-dayers and 25 T-20 matches, played his last 10 holes in five under to lead the amateur division, one ahead of Brazil’s Dubai-based Tiago Lobo.
The Saudi duo of Khaled Attieh and Othman Almulla shot matching level-par 70s to share the lead in the MENA Division for amateurs while Morocco’s leading professional Faycal Serghini finished day five behind Lebanon’s Badawi.
Elsewhere, Zane Scotland, the most prolific winner on the MENA Golf Tour, returned a 67 to join Scotland’s Paul Doherty and his compatriot Lee Corfield in a tie for 13th.
Rising English amateur Sam Hobday provided the highlight of the day, acing the 116-yard par-3, 14th with a pitching wedge for the fourth hole in one feat of his career — and his first in a big tournament.