FORMER Hampshire Boys Champion Jack Singh Brar soared up the leaderboard with a late birdie blitz to take a share of the first-round lead alongside Louis de Jager at the Magical Kenya Open.
The Englishman, who is a European Tour rookie after graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2018, produced a stunning eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie finish to sign for a bogey-free seven under par round of 64 in Nairobi.
Singh Brar, who is a member at Dorset’s Remedy Oak, grew up playing for Hampshire as a member at Bramshaw, winning its Boys Championship in 2011, before playing in the 2017 Walker Cup alongside Hampshire team-mates Harry Ellis and Scott Gregory, who both claimed the Amateur Championship before turning pro that year.
“Through the round I got up and down when I needed to and then I was five-under through my last four – a great way to finish the round.”
Jack – who first played on the European Tour as an amateur in the Russian Open, in 2013, having won the Faldo Series Grand Final in Brazil – added: “It was my first time at this course, and I like it here.
“The course is quite fiery, and you can hit a lot of low run shots, which is my stock shot, and that worked out perfectly as it can go miles with the altitude.
“It is very different to a lot of the courses that we play, it’s quite quirky, and that is something which has suited me in the past – I won at a course on the Challenge Tour in France which is similar to here.
“I have to just keep pushing on now as you can’t defend on this tour,” added the New Forest-based golfer, who represented Great Britain at the Youth Olympics, in Australia, in 2013.
Despite windy conditions at Karen Country Club, South Africa’s de Jager also shined in the Kenyan sun, bagging seven birdies and an eagle to join Singh Brar at the top of the leaderboard.
A happy de Jager said: “I have been hitting it really well over the past two weeks and I did that again today, but just managed to hole a few putts too.
“It is always nice to be back in Africa, and when we came here on Tuesday, I felt right at home on my home continent and it felt very similar with the altitude to Pretoria which is home for me.
“I also played here last year on the Sunshine Tour, so I feel that I know the course quite well.
“It was a lot windier today than I am used to here, so to come away with the score that I did was really satisfying.”
One shot off the lead is India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar. The European Tour winner is well-placed to contend again after 18 holes thanks to a blemish-free 65 on his first start in the Kenyan capital.
Bhullar said: “The golf course is really interesting – very similar to what we have back in India. Anything from a two iron to a driver works well off the tee.
“I gave myself a lot of good opportunities and I kept the ball in play the whole day and putted well.
“To make six birdies and remain bogey-free in testing conditions felt great, even though I felt I left a couple out there.”
Two off the top are Spanish rookie Adri Arnaus and five-time European Tour champion Michael Hoey, while in-form Christian Bezuidenhout – who finished as a runner-up in Qatar last week – leads a pack of seven players who sit three shots off the pace.
Hoey, who won the British Amateur Championship back in 2001 at Prestwick, said: “I was five-under after the first round in Kenya last year too – I’m not sure what it is about is about Nairobi!
“I am staying with a great Irish family this week who have been here for 27 years and they have been really good hosts, telling me a lot about Kenya.
“I stayed with them 10 years ago so to catch up with them has been great – great food and great hospitality.
“I have played a lot in Africa so I am really used to the altitude here, I know how far the ball is going and my caddy was really good today.
“I judged the wind really well as it was quite tricky today. It is very similar to Joburg and I think having that experience will work to my advantage this week.”