Penang, March 23: Superb rounds of seven-under-par 65 each saw Danny Chia and Kemarol Baharin (pic) share the first round lead at the RM125,000 Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Penang Classic today.
The duo, who both have a victory apiece to their names on the burgeoning PGM Tour, opened up an early three strokes advantage over Shaaban Hussin, who carded a 68 at the Penang Golf Resort in Penang.
Kulim-based pro Chan Soo Keong, who just made the transition to the paid ranks earlier this year, made full use of local knowledge to return with a 69 alongside seasoned Solhairy Sharif, M. Sasidaran and PGM Kinrara Classic winner Mohd Iylia Jamil. A further shot back on 70 was Khor Kheng Hwai, Sukree Othman and 16-year-old teenager Ali Reza Khairuddin.
Chia (right) enjoyed an equally convincing start, birdieing the first hole before pulling off an audacious eagle on the par-five second. Dropping a shot on the fifth, the 39-year-old added another birdie on the seventh to finish the front nine on 33. A spotless back nine, highlighted by four birdies saw Chia setting the clubhouse lead at 65.
Starting off the back nine, Kemarol got off to a flawless start when he drained four birdies to make the turn on 32. The former international’s birdie spree continued on the outward stretch, where he notched four consecutive birdies from hole 11 onwards before bogeying the 16th to finish tied with Chia.
Returning to form after a good showing in the recent Indonesian Masters, Shaaban had a mixed first nine. An eagle on the second was quickly followed by a succession of bogeys before he steadied himself with a birdie on the fifth and the eighth. He mixed three birdies against one bogey on the homeward nine to lie three shots adrift of the leaders.
A hole-in-one was also recorded when Malkit Singh scored an ace on the par-three seventh with his 8-iron. It was his first hole-in-one as a professional.
Leading first round scores
65 Kemarol Baharin, Danny Chia
68 Shaaban Hussin
69 M. Chan Soo Keong, Solhairy Sharif, M.Sasidaran, Mohd Iylia Jamil
70 Ali Reza Khairuddin, Sukree Othman, Khor Kheng Hwai
71 S. Sivachandhran, Dinata Abdillah, S.Murthy, Lim Eng Seng, Sahal Saedin, Alan Chin, Nazrin Majid, Airil Rizman Zahari