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Switzerland's Iten flying high on two eagles at the Ras Al Khaimah Open by Arena

October 28, 2019
EAGLES GALORE: European Challenge Tour star Marco Iten surged to the top of the leaderboard courtesy two eagles on the back nine.

AL AIN, October 28: Switzerland’s Marco Iten made a stunning debut on the MENA Tour when two eagles on the back nine of Tower Links Golf Club helped him soar to the top of the Ras Al Khaimah Open by Arena leaderboard on the opening day Monday.

The 29-year-old from Zurich was playing on a special exemption, trying to get some match sharpness ahead of the second stage of European Tour Qualifying School next week. And he made the most of the opportunity, with a hot start, followed by a back nine of 30 with the two eagles.

One shot behind the leader were Sweden’s Niclas Weiland and Scotland’s Scott Henry, who shot matching rounds of 65 playing together in the second group in the morning. The duo was later joined by England’s Joshua Grenville-Wood, who holed out from 139 yards to eagle the par-4 15th.

Australia’s Daniel Gaunt, hoping to make a big move this week in the Journey To Jordan where he is currently second behind leader MG Keyser of South Africa, opened with a five-under par 67.

Josh Hill, who created worldwide headlines last week by becoming the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event, struggled on the greens and came home in 78 after missing more than half a dozen par putts from inside six-eight feet range.

Iten started in bright fashion, hitting it to six feet on the first two par-4 holes. Another gain on the par-5 fifth was erased by his only bogey of the day on the eighth and he made the turn at two-under.

On the back nine, Iten eagled the 13th hole when he smashed a three-wood downwind from 290 yards to 20 feet and on the 18th, where he converted a 15-footer. He also had birdies on the 10th and 15th.

“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-5s in two and make my putts,” said 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 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. We both played well and I think we fed off each other quite nicely,” said the affable Scotsman.