Emilio Cuartero Blanco shot a second successive 65 at Galgorm Castle to lead by one shot on 12 under par at the halfway point of the Northern Ireland Open in Association with Sphere Global and Ulster Bank.
On another day of low scoring, the 24 year old Spaniard’s flawless six birdie round gave him a narrow advantage over American John Hahn and Ireland’s Niall Turner.
Turner has only recently returned from a long-term back injury but has found form in front of the Galgorm crowds and is keen to make up for lost time.
“I’ve had a long time waiting to get back out here,” said the Cork born golfer.
“It’s been a complete nightmare to be honest so to be back now and in contention is fantastic, I couldn’t have wished for anything more.”
Turner’s round included an eagle and four birdies, his only blemish coming at the par four 11 as he added a 66 to his opening round of 65.
Cuartero Blanco’s previous best finish this season was a tie for ninth in the curtain-raising Barclays Kenya Open.
“I played really solid golf again today,” he said.
“I didn’t make any mistakes like the two bogeys I had yesterday, and I can’t really complain about anything. I felt strong mentally and played really well for the second day running, so I’m very happy.”
The leading Ulster player is Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge who is just four shots back in a tie for ninth after a five under par 66.
“I played very well and gave myself a lot of chances,” said the 23-year-old.
“I made a couple of bogeys at 11 and 12 but then I had lots of birdie chances on the way back in again and made three of them.
“To shoot 66 was good. It could have been better, it could have been worse but it puts me in good shape.”
Newcastle based Simon Thornton is a shot further back after a frustrating two under par round of 69.
“An average day. Didn’t play great to be honest. I didn’t start very well,” said Simon.
One of the biggest moves of the day came from Gareth Shaw who followed up a disappointing two over par opening round with a seven under par 64 that moved him 77 places on the leaderboard and into a tie for 30th on five under par.
Tournament Ambassador Michael Hoey birdied two of his final three holes but his two under par total that was not enough to make the cut, missing by one shot.