14 March, 2019: Jack Singh Brar picked up five shots in his last four holes to share the lead with Louis de Jager after round one of the Kenya Open presented by Absa. Gaganjeet Bhullar shot up the leaderboard on a refined 65 on Thursday.
The event was first played in 1967 and counts Major Champions Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Trevor Immelman among its winners but was making its European Tour debut this week.
Singh Brar is playing in just his 15th European Tour event at Karen Country Club and carded his lowest round to date with a 64 to get to seven under, before De Jager birdied the last to join him at the summit.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar was at six under after a bogey free round, a shot clear of Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey.
Englishman Singh Brar turned professional in 2017 after taking three points from four in a losing Walker Cup effort and graduated from the European Challenge Tour last season with the help of a win at the Cordon Golf Open.
De Jager came through the Qualifying School at the sixth attempt last season and has played at least one European Tour event in each of the last 12 seasons since he turned professional.
Starting on the tenth, Singh Brar birded the 11th and 12th but then made 11 straight pars and was still three shots off the lead after 15 holes.
An eagle on the par five sixth ignited his round and when he made birdies on the seventh and eighth, he was one shot behind De Jager.
The South African had bogeyed the second but he birdied the third, fourth, seventh and eighth before an eagle on the driveable ninth saw him turn in 30.
A birdie on the 12th handed him the solo lead and when he holed a brilliant 15 foot left-to-righter down the hill at the 13th, he was seven under.
He went over the back of the next to drop a shot and share the lead with Singh Brar, who got up and down from left of the ninth green to take the solo lead.
De Jager then hit back with a birdie on the last to share top spot once more.
Bhullar was a picture of consistency in his 65, birdieing the first, sixth, seventh and eighth to turn in 31. Another birdie at the 14th had him in a four way tie for the lead and a long putt on the 17th moved him to six under.
Chikkarangappa shot a 70 for a place inside the top twenty.
Arnaus set the target in the morning as he equalled the lowest round of his fledgling European Tour career. The 24 year old made birdies on the 11th, 15th and 17th, joined the lead with an 18 foot right-to-lefter on the fifth and hit the front on his own after taking advantage of the ninth.
Hoey – a five time European Tour winner – bogeyed the seventh but made a hat-trick of gains from the ninth and then rattled off three more from the 16th in a big finish.
Italians Filippo Bergamaschi and Guido Migliozzi, South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, New Zealander Josh Geary, Scot Liam Johnston, Frenchman Romain Langasque and Chilean Hugo Leon were at four under.
Local favourite Simon Ngige Mburu was alone at three under, with 11 countries represented in the top 13.