Daan Huizing from the Netherlands leads by one after the first round of the Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla ahead of fellow European Challenge Tour player Jack Senior and Ladies European Tour player Meghan MacLaren from England.
The innovative Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla is a mixed gender event, where men and women golfers are playing in the same field, for the same prize and trophy.
MacLaren set the clubhouse target with a seven-under-par 65 at Ayla Golf Club on Thursday morning, but there was a late surge from the rising stars on the European Challenge Tour in the afternoon, with blue skies and only a gentle breeze at the spectacular Red Sea venue.
Huizing, 23, from Zwolle, took advantage of the conditions and posted nine birdies and a bogey.
The two-time European Challenge Tour winner said afterwards: “Today was pretty complete and I was shaping the ball nicely, both ways, which is something I’ve worked on very hard over the winter. I made some good putts and mentally I was in good shape as well, sticking to my process, so there are a lot of good signs and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
He played in a group with Paul Streeter and Beth Allen, adding: “I enjoyed it. It was pretty fun and chilled and gives you a different perspective.”
Two-time Ladies European Tour winner MacLaren, who successfully defended her Women’s New South Wales Open title last month, reeled off eight birdies and a bogey. She started with a pair of birdies, followed by two more on the par-4 sixth and 10th holes respectively. Her only blemish came on the 11th, but she made three consecutive birdies from the 13th and added another at the long 17th hole.
“I drove the ball really well and that took most of the danger out of play. I putted well, even though I missed a couple of chances early on. After that, I was reading the greens well and I think I could have had a couple more at the end there, but you can’t argue with that,” she said.
MacLaren has been a vocal supporter of mixed gender events and she continued: “Given everything I’ve talked about over the last few months, it is nice to back it up, but I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on myself. I’ve been saying to everybody that the girls’ standard of play will show if the course is set up properly. I’m just happy with how I’ve played and if that puts me near the top against the guys, then that’s just a bonus, really.”
Senior, 30, from Morecambe, is also one off the lead. He said: “Playing in the afternoon conditions, I thought it would get more windy, but the wind didn’t get up. You’re always happy when you shoot seven-under.”
Fellow European Challenge Tour player Matt Ford shares sixth with the leading Staysure Tour player, Paul Streeter, on six-under-par.
The 54-hole strokeplay event continues on Friday with a 36-hole cut to the top 60 golfers and ties.