Kearney is back in contention after 65
GOLF:ON A day when Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney roared back into contention with a five-under par 65, Germany’s Florian Fritsch edged closer to having to deal with his fear of flying.
The 25-year-old German flew straight to the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the European Tour Qualifying School final stage when he carded an impressive, seven under par 65 on the testing Stadium Course to lead the field by a stroke on eight-under par.
But if Fritsch is to join his former amateur team-mate Martin Kaymer on the European Tour next season, he knows he will need to tackle his aerophobia sooner rather than later.
“I’ve not been on a plane since March,” said Fritsch, who played just seven events on the Challenge Tour this year despite the fact that he could have teed it up in every event. “I drove here from Germany. It took a day which was not fun but at least I can get here.
“I’ll not be going anywhere east if I get my card. My primary goal even if I get a card will be to get rid of the fear of flying. I can enter all the tournaments I want but without being able to fly I can’t play. So without taking care of that a tour card from here is worthless.”
Fritsch leads by one stroke from Welshman Liam Bond, Norway’s Espen Kofstad, South African George Coetzee and first round pace-setter Steve Lewton of England. Kearney and former Royal County Down assistant Simon Thornton are the best of the Irish hopefuls in joint 43rd place on one-under par – just a stroke outside the top 30 and ties who will earn cards on Friday evening.
Former Walker Cup player Kearney had one of the rounds of the day as he recovered from his four-over 76 on the Stadium Course with a bogey-free effort on the Tour Course.
The 22-year-old Royal Dublin player put his resurgence down to a two-hour session on the practice range and an early bedtime on Sunday night.
“I’m back in it,” Kearney said after a controlled round. “I went to the range for a couple of hours yesterday, hit loads of balls and got my rhythm back. I was out of kilter but it just felt smooth today.
“The 76 yesterday was probably caused by lack of concentration and going back out with six holes of my first round still to play. But I got lots of rest, I was in bed by 9.30, and I was fully focused today.”
Thornton headed straight for the putting green after holing “nothing at all” in his 69, a score matched by Colm Moriarty, who got back to one-over for the tournament after a testing day on the Tour Course.
“A couple of shots better and you would have been delighted but there is a long way to go still,” said Moriarty, who chipped in for birdie at the 17th.
“It was just important to shoot a half decent round today. I didn’t want to shoot two or three over again and go to that tough course tomorrow on the back foot.”
Moriarty is tied for 77th with Belfast’s Damian Mooney, who struggled to a three-over par 75 on the tough Stadium Course after what he described as “one of those days”.
On another day that featured a stiff breeze which made it difficult for players to choose the correct club, Mooney slithered to five over par for the day when he visited water at the par-three 11th and ran up a double bogey five.
He fought back with birdies at the 12th, 14th and 17th but then failed to get up and down from just a few yards off the 18th green.