Calum Hill leads in bid for second Irish success on Challenge Tour

Calum Hill is chasing his second Challenge Tour triumph of the season on Irish soil. Picture: Mike Schoaf/Southwest PGA
Calum Hill is chasing his second Challenge Tour triumph of the season on Irish soil. Picture: Mike Schoaf/Southwest PGA
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Calum Hill shared the lead at the halfway stage in the Monaghan Irish Challenge as he chases a second Challenge Tour win of the season on Irish soil.

The 23-year-old backed up his opening 68 with a 69 that contained seven birdies to sit on seven-under at Concra Wood Golf Club, where he was tied with Niklas Lemke and Ricardo Santos.

Hill won landed his maiden Challenge Tour victory in the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Resort & Spa in August, backing that up with two top-10 finishes to sit 33rd in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings.

A second success in this event in Co Monaghan would catapult him into contention for the 15 European Tour grabs up for grabs on the second-tier circuit.

“It was a good round,” said Hill, who is playing in just his ninth Challenge Tour event. “My short game got me through it for two thirds of the round and then I put some nice shots together at the end, which was good.

“This is a tough course. When we played a practice round – me and a couple of pals – we felt it was a very tough course, so I’m very happy with seven under after two rounds.

“Fourteen under par would be a very nice target over the weekend, but I don’t know where that would put me. I can’t complain with how it’s going so far, so another two rounds like that would be fine.”

Among those in the chasing pack is Hill’s compatriot Robert MacIntyre, who is sitting joit-fifth on five-under after rounds of 71 and 68.

Duncan Stewart, who had started the day alongside Hill, ended up making the cut by the skin of his teeth after a second-round 78.

Elsewhere, Martin Laird slipped three spots to joint-15th at the halfway stage of the Safeway Open, the first event of the new PGA Tour season, in California.

The US-based Scot had to settle for a second-round 70 - three shots more than his opening effort - to sit on seven-under-par at the Silverado Resort in Napa.

Brandt Snedeker carded a second-round 65 to storm three shots clear of the field on 13-under, with Ryder Cup flop Phil Mickelson among three players leading the chase.