Niall Kearney in first round action. Picture: Getty Images
Raheny’s Niall Kearney finished in a share of 14th place in the European Challenge Tour’s Andalucía Challenge de Cádiz at the Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri.
It could, however, have been so much better after he produced a brilliant opening round of 66 to lead the competition by two strokes.
The Royal Dublin man signed a blemish free card at the end of a blustery day in Andalucía ahead of Spain’s Jacobo Pastor in second place on four under par, while Germany’s Allen John, Spanish duo Manuel Elvira and Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, and Finland’s Roope Kakko shared third place on three under par.
“I played really well, I played solid,” he said. “I got some great practice in over the last couple of days and everything felt pretty well the way it should have.”
Only 15 players were under par on the opening day of the Challenge de Cádiz and with the wind swirling, Kearney admitted he did not expect anyone to shoot as low as his excellent 66.
“I thought, warming up, that it was going to be a tough day,” he said. “The wind was blowing a bit at 30kph and six under is good today, I was happy with that.
“The wind makes a difference on the front nine more than the back. There’s very little shelter on the front nine. You’re out, you’re on the coast, you’re on the seaside there. The back nine is very wooded so although it’s still blowing, you don’t necessarily feel it so if you can keep the flight low enough, it doesn’t affect it too much.
After round two, Kearney posted a one under par round of 71 while Spaniard Pastor carded a three under par round of 69.
The Dubliner enjoyed a purple patch at the start of the back nine by carding an eagle on the par five 11th hole which was immediately followed by back-to-back birdies, before bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes meant he was unable to retain the outright lead which he opened on day one.
Kearney’s hopes faded, however, after a third-round 76 left him nine shots off the lead, slipping to 12th place on three under par.
He finished with a solid 72 in round four to end the competition in 14th place. The outcome means he misses out on the tour’s grand final in Mallorca.
Nonetheless, he was content to get back out on the course after a difficult year.
“It’s been great to get away. The Challenge Tour have done a great job just to put both events on. It’s been a tricky year, everyone is just happy to be away with card in hand, playing golf.”