Barker rides blistering front nine to lead at Golf Citizen Abu Dhabi Open

Rising teen star Kyle Barker shot a sparkling six-under 66 to leave a top-class field trailing in his wake as he opened an early two-shot lead heading into the second round of the MENA Tour’s Golf Citizen Abu Dhabi Open.

Getting off to a blistering start, the 19-year-old prodigy from South Africa notched up five birdies, including three in a row from the first, to turn in 31 before offsetting his lone bogey on the 10th with further gains on the 13th and 16th as fading light forced play to be suspended with four groups, each comprising three players, still on the course.

Talented English amateur Todd Clements, who boasts a tied second and 17th in the last two MENA Tour events, continued his impressive run, posting a solid 68 that left him alone in second place as he stayed on course for a strong finish he needs to break into the top 50 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Sharing third a further shot adrift was an eight-man group that included England’s Zane Scotland, a 10-time MENA Tour winner, and South Africa’s Wayne Stroebel, who produced the shot of the day, acing the 141-yar par-3, 13th with a pitching wedge for his first career hole-in-one.

Playing in his second MENA Tour event in three weeks this season, Darren Clarke a carded a solid 70 to firmly stay in the frame, moving into a seven-way tie for 11th as another veteran Andrew Marshall of England settled for one-under 71.

It was young Barker, who took centre-stage with a near-flawless round. “Everything flowed quite smoothly out there. I struck the ball beautifully, putted nicely and my approaches were relatively close, creating a plenty of birdie opportunities,” said the South African, who is playing the event on a special MENA Tour invitation.

“I had a lot of fun playing on this course, which is in great condition and look forward to having some more good time in the next two rounds,” said the young prodigy, who turned professional in 2016.

Currently ranked 64th in the world, Clements mixed five birdies with a bogey (on the 15th) to gain some early momentum. “I started off well, making four birdies in the first seven holes and that set pretty much the tone for the round.

“I played good, solid golf and made no major mistake which was the key,” said the 21-year-old from Essex.

Elsewhere, UAE’s Khalid Yousuf carded a level-par 72 to join Othman Almulla of Saudi Arabia for a share of fourth in the amateur division as Ahmed Al Musharrekh, playing in the company of 2011 Open champion Clarke, left himself a mountain to climb after dropping six shots in his last five holes en route to a six-over 78.

England’s Luke Joy, who is attached to Yas Links Abu Dhabi, settled for a 74 as his fellow countryman Christopher Cannon, who plies his trade on the Sunshine Tour, took a share of 11th along with Joshua White, the winner of the MENA Tour’s Order of Merit title in 2014.

An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.

A guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour’s 2018 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (for the MENA Tour champion), multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open, are some of the added incentives that await MENA Tour members, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.

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