by Ronan MacNamara
Niall Kearney by Golffile
Niall Kearney leads the Irish charge at the Joburg Open after darkness brought a premature end to the first round at Randpark Golf Club.
As the sun set over Johannesburg, Kearney was already in the clubhouse at one-under-par after an opening round of 70 which included four birdies and three bogeys.
It leaves the Dubliner in a share of 31st place as he made a solid start to his DP World Tour campaign as the new world tour got underway in South Africa.
Playing the course from back to front, the Royal Dublin golfer opened with a bogey, birdie start before four straight pars paved the way for an erratic run of holes that eventually saw him come out the right side of par.
Two birdies on 16 and 18 came either side of a dropped shot on 17 before a bogey on 2 was cancelled out by a birdie on 3.
The 33-year-old steadied the ship with six closing pars to trail Angel Hidalgo and Thriston Lawrence by five strokes with Lawrence due to complete his final hole on Friday morning.
Elsewhere, Jonathan Caldwell carded just four pars in his opening 16 holes as he left the golf course at level-par.
The Clandeboye native opened with three bogeys on the trot before six birdies in eight holes catapulted him to three-under and into early contention.
That sensational run paved the way for a rollercoaster five holes as the 37-year-old double bogeyed the par-5 12th before halving the damage with a welcome birdie on the par-5 14th.
With light fading, Caldwell was left kicking himself as he fell back to level-par after a second double bogey of the day on 16 before he was called in.
Paul Dunne will also return to complete the final three holes of his opening round at three-over-par through 15 holes.
The Greystones native carded five bogeys and two birdies in a disappointing opening effort while Cormac Sharvin’s year continues to go from bad to worse after the Ardglass native carded a seven-over 78 to leave himself with a mountain to climb to make the cut.
Home favourite Dean Burmester got the new DP World Tour up and running as he hit the opening tee shot of the season to signal a new dawn in golf.
The South African who has two DP World Tour titles to his name and is the highest ranked player in the field was thrilled to have the honour of hitting the first dig on home soil.
"A great partnership and what a great name, DP World Tour," he said. "It's a world tour and what an honour to be able to hit that first tee shot.
"I think everybody here is going to be over the moon with the start of it and what better place than back home in South Africa for me."