Matthew McClean is riding high at the top of the leaderboard after day one of the 56th Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
McClean carded a near flawless round of four-under 66 to lead by the minimum while Eoin Murphy and Robert Moran are in close pursuit on two-under-par.
The Malone golfer carded five birdies with his only dropped shot of the afternoon coming on the 17th.
The Portrush Scratch Cup winner has been in great form following that up with a quarter-final appearance at the West of Ireland Championship over the Easter weekend and his links prowess came to the fore on Friday.
McClean turned in 32 after birdies on the 4th and 6th but a superb run in the middle of his back nine lifted him to five-under-par.
Birdies on 10, 13 and 14 catapulted the Irish international to the summit and despite a dropped shot on his penultimate hole he maintained his place at the top of the leaderboard.
McClean has plenty of chasers behind him with Spanish amateur champion John Gough the standout name of the chasing pack on three-under after a 67 alongside Scortland’s Oliver Mukherjee and Austrian golfer Florian Schweighofer.
Overall it was a positive day for the Irish with three more of the seventeen-strong challenge perched inside the top-20 at days end.
Castle golfer Robert Moran will have a bitter taste in his mouth after a closing triple-bogey seven on the 18th spoiled what was looking like a stunning opening round.
Moran was five-under standing on the 18th tee but was forced him to settle for a two-under 68.
The Dubliner’s golf was sublime up until that point as he raced to the turn in 31 courtesy of birdies on the first, fourth, seventh and eighth with his only blemish coming on the 6th.
A brace of birdies on 12 and 13 took Moran to the top of the leaderboard before that chastening finish.
Dundalk’s Eoin Murphy produced a strong back nine to wrestle his way into early contention with a battling 68 of his own.
A bogey on the sixth and a birdie on seven saw him turn in 34 in what was an uneventful front nine but a brace of gains to open his inward journey gave him some momentum.
A birdie on 16 took him to three-under but he gave that back on seventeen to come home in 34.
Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly signed for a one-over 71 to lie in 18th place after a rollercoaster opening effort and he is five shots adrift of McClean after trading four bogeys and three birdies.
Meath man Jack McDonnell is a shot further back on two-over after a 72 and he is 30th while Hugh Foley opened his week with a three-over 73.
There are a host of Irish players with work to do to make the halfway cut. Athenry’s David Kitt and Carton House’s Marc Boucher are on plus five after opening 75s as is John Cleary.
Roganstown starlet Patrick Keeling is on six-over as is West of Ireland semi-finalist Thomas Higgins after a 76.
Reigning West of Ireland champion Alan Fahy of Bray and beaten finalist Liam Nolan are facing mammoth tasks to be around for the Bank Holiday weekend after they both fell to seven-over 77s.
Aidan Dooley and South of Ireland champion TJ Ford are on ten-over after struggling 80s while David Shiel rounds off the challenge of the Boys in Green on eleven-over.
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