Lothians duo Kieran Cantley and Danny Kay off to strong starts in Scottish Challenge

Kieran Cantley picked the perfect time to regain his form as the Edinburgh man joined Craig Lee and Danny Kay in producing strong starts in the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge at Newmachar.

Lee, one of the oldest players in the field at 45, took pride of place among a big home contingent on day one in the £230,000 event with a five-under-par 66 that contained nine birdies.

Kay also has the leader, Englishman Nathan Kimsey, in his sights after he opened with a polished 67 in the first game out in the tournament’s return since dropping off the schedule after David Law triumphed on home soil at Spey Valley in Aviemore in 2018.

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And, with Cantley baking up his compatriots with a 68 to also sit inside the top 15, it was a good day’s work by the Scots as Paul Lawrie, who is hosting the event through his sports management and events company, Five Star Sports Agency, looked on.

Kieran Cantley made the first of eight starts on this season's Challenge Tour in last week's Challenge de Espana at Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri in Cadiz. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

“I’m pretty pleased with that,” said Cantley of an effort that started with a bogey but then produced four birdies in blustery conditions at the Aberdeenshire venue. “I played pretty well today, but just didn’t hole many putts.

“It’s a good start to the tournament considering I’ve not been playing great recently. I’d been focusing on the wrong things. I’ve been going through the ball and getting too technical instead of just trying to play golf.

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“I went to see my coach, Colin Brooks, a couple of weeks ago and we were chatting about swing keys. He said that we had to be concentrating on things that are going to work now rather than looking at big changes. Sometimes it’s the wee things that can help you play good golf and I’ve gone back to that.

“Although I missed the cut in Spain last week, I played some good golf. I got the bad side of the draw there and missed by two. But I’ve started to hit some good golf shots again, which is nice.”

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As a reward for topping the Tartan Pro Tour Order of Merit last season, Cantley is set to make a total of eight appearances on the Challenge Tour this season, with this being just the second.

Those opportunities have been teed up by Lawrie and Cantley said of the 1999 Open champion: “What Paul is doing for Scottish golf is massive. Without him, I wouldn’t be playing in this event and other guys are in the same boat. It’s definitely a big year for me and I’ve got to make the most of the chances I get.”

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Dunbar man Kay was up at 5.30am for his early start, but with a one-year-old at home, he took that in his stride.

“It was just a case of continuing what I’ve been doing recently,” he said of some good results, including a win at Montrose, on this season’s Tartan Pro Tour. “I’m getting into that zone, if you want to call it that, and doing everything well and efficiently.

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“I’ve been working on my mindset with Noel Flannery and that has definitely helped. I play better when I’m not thinking about golf and having fun - that frees me up.”