Ryan Evans took a second successive trip down Route 66 at Gloria Golf Club to reach 12 under par and trail Turkish Airlines Challenge leader Tapio Pulkkanen by one shot at the halfway stage
The Englishman dropped a shot on the fifth hole but followed up with four birdies in the next five, ultimately shooting a six under par round for the second day running to set the clubhouse target before Pulkkanen’s 69 took him back in front on 13 under par.
Evans is yet to win on the European Challenge Tour, his best previous finish coming at the Kärnten Golf Open two years ago when he tied for third, but for the second day running he found the Turkish sunshine to his liking.
With 36 holes still to play, much can and will change in Belek over the weekend, but the 30 year old is drawing inspiration from the performance of his compatriot Jordan Smith, who won the second tournament on last year’s Road to Oman and ultimately topped the Rankings.
“You’ve just got to be confident,” he said. “You see someone like Jordan last year coming straight from the EuroPro Tour, onto the Challenge Tour with no expectations and then he gets a win under his belt early and cruises it.
“He’s now playing great on the European Tour, and that shows how, if you can get an early win or a top five, it gets you a bit of confidence and that then rolls into the following week.
“Matt Wallace is doing the same already – six wins on the Alps Tour last year, third in Kenya and obviously could have won, doing well again this week.
“You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself but to get a win obviously helps your season because it gives you a chance to play in the bigger tournaments like the Rolex Trophy, it helps you towards the final stretch.
“I just know if I play the way I can play, put in a couple of good results, some top tens, top fives – and if I get a win, great – I should be in pretty good shape come the end of the year.
“Getting that confidence in your game, that self-belief, and you never know what might then happen.”
First round leader Pulkkanen started slowly on day two, the Finn failing to make the most of perfect scoring conditions after overnight rain had softened up the New Course by opening with eight straight pars.
However, three birdies followed on the back nine, earning the 26 year old the top spot in Turkey once again.
“There were a lot of things going on in my mind yesterday evening and this morning,” he said. “I just tried to go about playing my own game and do what I did yesterday.
“I didn’t drive the ball quite as well today, especially on the par fives, so I struggled for a few birdies, but I was patient today – I knew my front nine was tougher so I waited for my chances and they finally came at the end.
“It was a good way to finish, and for my game the key was to avoid chasing the score, to trust my wedges and be sensible if I went in the rough, and I won’t really be changing that plan over the weekend.”
One shot behind Evans, Ricardo Santos and Mads Søgaard share third place, with Portugal’s Santos one of the day’s biggest movers as his eight under par round of 64 took him to 11 under par.
Søgaard went on an incredible run around the turn, the Dane following an eagle with four straight birdies, to join Santos just two shots behind the leader.
Antti Ahokas, Julien Guerrier and Alessandro Tadini are one shot further back in a tie for fifth place, while Oscar Stark fired the round of the day, ten birdies in his 63 as he recovered from his disappointing Thursday to reach six under par and make the cut.
Late birdies, with both sides of the course ending in reachable par fives, added much late drama for those nervously watching the cut line, with 61 players ultimately making it to the weekend at five under par or better.