Childhood friends Ewen Ferguson and Robert MacIntyre are among the leaders on a day of high quality golf in the first round of the Turkish Airlines Challenge at Gloria Golf Club.
The Scots, both 21 years old, are two of seven golfers who share the lead on six under par on a day of low scoring in near-perfect conditions in Antalya. Alongside the duo are Lorenzo Gagli, Josh Geary, Nathan Kimsey, Kim Koivu, Oscar Lengden.
MacIntyre was three under par after the opening two holes, courtesy of a birdie on the first and a brilliant eagle on the second.
A bogey on the fourth hole meant he slipped back to two under par but he responded superbly, carding four gains in the next five holes to make the turn in 31.
MacIntyre, who won his first professional title on the Mena Golf Tour last year, began the back nine with a bogey but five successive pars ensured he remained just one shot behind the leaders before throwing down the gauntlet on the 16th hole.
After picking up another shot on the par five 16th to draw level with the leaders he made another birdie on the 17th which catapulted him into the outright lead with one hole to play.
However, a bogey on the 18th meant the Glencruitten-born player had to sign for a 66 and a share of the lead as the sun began to set at Gloria Golf Club.
His compatriot Ferguson enjoyed a brilliant morning round, carding five pars and four birdies on the final nine holes, but it was his opening stretch which paved the way to the top of the leaderboard.
The Scot was one over after the first six holes following a bogey on the par four 11th, but he then made a superb eagle at the par five 16th which was the catalyst for his excellent back nine.
After a good drive on the 542-yard par five, Ferguson fired a five-wood onto the green before sinking a daunting 40-foot putt to go from one over to one under.
With Scotland being well represented at the top of the leaderboard, MacIntyre believes the competition between the countrymen – who have known on another since they were teenagers – forces them to raise their game.
“It’s great to see the Scottish golfers doing well,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve been getting some stick over the last year so it’s good to see the young guys out here just going hammer and tongs at each other.
“We’re all pushing ourselves and pushing each other. Connor Syme’s on the European Tour so we’re all trying to get there as well now so it’s good to see that everyone’s pushing each other on.
“Me and Ewen have known each other since we were 15 year olds through the Scottish system. This week we’re not rooming, but we’re literally door-to-door in the hotel.
“We can literally hear each other talk so it’s pretty cool that we’re both up at the top of the leaderboard. We’ve been brought up together.”
This morning’s round was Ferguson’s first European Challenge Tour foray of the season and he was pleased to see his diligent off-season work pay dividends at Gloria Golf Club.
“I was in Dubai sharpening up my wedge play during the off-season. I actually went to Kenya to try and qualify but just missed out there,” he said.
“It was a good experience to see what that was like and I played in a few Alps Tour events. I’ve just been focusing on my wedge play and short game around the green to sharpen myself up.
“I played the par fives at six under and there’s five of them so it looks as if I’m hitting it miles and chipping on the green but actually, I don’t hit it miles and I was hitting good wedge shots on the green and chipping it close. My short game was really good today.”