SWITZERLAND’S Marco Iten made a stunning debut on the MENA Tour as two eagles on the back nine of Tower Links Golf Club helped him soar to the top of the Ras Al Khaimah Open leaderboard on the opening day.
The 29-year-old, from Zurich, was playing on a special exemption – trying to get some match sharpness ahead of the second stage of next week’s European Tour Qualifying School, in Spain.
And he made the most of the opportunity, with a hot start, followed by a back nine of 30 thanks to his two eagles on his way to an eight-under par 64.
A shot behind the leader were Sweden’s Niclas Weiland and Scotland’s Scott Henry, who both shot 65 playing together in the second group in the morning.
The duo were later joined by EuroPro Tour regular Joshua Grenville-Wood, who holed out from 139 yards to eagle the par-four 15th.
Australia’s Daniel Gaunt – hoping to make a big move in the Journey To Jordan where the Surrey-based Burhill GC pro is currently second behind leader MG Keyser, from South Africa – opened with a 67 in the United Arab Emirates.
England junior Josh Hill, who created worldwide headlines last week by becoming the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event, struggled on the greens.
The Dubai-based amateur came home in 78 after missing more than half a dozen par putts from inside the six-eight feet range, emphasising the highs and lows of the game.
Wentworth’s Harry Ellis, who finished second in the last two MENA Tour events to jump into contention on the Journey to Jordan, had to settle for a 69, which left the Hampshire double English and British Amateur Champion five shots behind Iten and down in 15th spot.
Iten started in bright fashion, hitting it to six feet on the first two par fours. Another gain on the par-five fifth was erased by his only bogey of the day on the eighth to make the turn in two-under.
On the back nine, Iten eagled the 13th when he smashed a three-wood downwind from 290 yards to 20 feet. And on the 18th he converted a 15-footer, having also made birdies on the 10th and 15th.
Iten said: “It was a good day. I got off to a fast start and managed to carry that momentum on to the back nine.
“I was able to hit both the par-fives in two and make my putts,” added Iten, who lost his card on the European Challenge Tour this year.
“It definitely is a great confidence booster ahead of the second stage of the Q-School next week.
“I can do with a few tournament rounds ahead of that and was looking for a place to play and some of my friends told me how good the MENA Tour is.
“I am thankful for the opportunity and hopefully, we can take the momentum from this round to the next two days.”
Henry, who won Scottish Men’s and Boys’ Strokeplay double as an amateur, was bogey-free in his 65, while Weiland made one bogey.
“It’s always easier when a guy in the group is making all the putts like Niclas did,” said the 32-year-old, who married Scottish LET player Kylie Walker two years and competed against his wife in the Jordan Mixed Open, back in April.
We both played well and I think we fed off each other quite nicely,” said Scotsman Henry, another Challenge Tour regular, who is attached to Loch Lomond’s The Carrick GC.
•To follow scores on the 54-hole Ras Al Khaimah Open click here.