Kurt Kitayama on strong path as he sits near lead at Mauritius Open

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Kurt Kitayama on strong path as he sits near lead at Mauritius Open

Euro Tour

Kurt Kitayama on strong path as he sits near lead at Mauritius Open

Kurt Kitayama’s hopes of following the same path as Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein to the PGA Tour look pretty good five rounds into his European Tour career. The UNLV grad is just one shot off the lead after the opening round of the $1.1 million AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

Kitayama returned a 7-under 65 to share second place with Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura and Jaco van Zyl of South Africa. They trail India’s S. Chikkarangappa and Victor Perez of France by a shot.

California native Kitayama went bogey-free. He recorded two birdies on the front nine to be out in 34, and came home in 31 thanks to five birdies. The performance follows a T-45 in last week’s Honma Hong Kong Open to kick-start his European Tour career.

Kitayama played the Asian Tour this year with some success. He’s currently 20th on that tour’s money list thanks to three top-four finishes, including a T-2 in the Royal Cup. He took the fourth card at this month’s European Tour Qualifying School to earn his European Tour playing rights.

A finance degree at UNLV should ensure Kitayama knows he’ll need to earn in the neighborhood of $350,000 to keep his card for 2020. He’ll have to play well since his status as a Q-School grad means he’ll struggle to get in the big money tournaments that comprise the Rolex Series. However, a change to the way points are earned per tournament has made it easier for players of Kitayama’s status to keep their cards than the last few seasons.

Perez graduated to the main tour by taking the third card off this year’s European Challenge Tour. He got his 2018-19 season off to a great start by finishing third in Hong Kong, and has continued that form in Mauritius.

“I’ve been playing a lot of good golf lately,” Perez admitted. “It’s been a really good streak, a little hard to believe in golf when we know how the highs and the lows can be. I’m trying to ride this wave out as long as possible and it showed again in this first round.”

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