Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy was the only Irishman to go under par on the opening day of the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Ignis Management Championship in Telford, England.
The 28-year-old, who is coming off a sixth-placed finish at last week’s season opener in Harleyford, continued his good form with a one-under 69 at Telford Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort to sit just inside the top-30 after the first round.
However, he is already four shots off the lead, with four players – Joe Dean, James Walker, Jack South and Nick Marsh – all tied at the top at five-under-par after rounds of 65.
McElroy had opened with nine pars on his front nine and then started with three more on his back-nine before a bogey at the 13th, but back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 has him in the red heading into Thursday’s round two.
The K Club’s Conor O’Rourke and Robin Dawson are both one shot further back as they opened with level-par 70s each, with Dawson’s in particular impressive as he birdied three of his final four holes to finish the day where he started.
Cork’s John Hickey, Youghal’s Conor Coyne and Dundalk’s Daniel Mulligan are just inside the cut line as it stands after they each carded one-over 71s but the rest of the local contingent have work to do to make the final round.
The duo of Whitehead’s John-Ross Galbraith and Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan are a shot off the line as it stands after a two-over 72, Daniel Brennan and Wexford’s Rhys Clarke opened with 73s, while PGA Catalunya’s Luke Donnelly has a long way to come back after a six-over 76.
All four of the leaders were bogey-free for the day as they opened up a one-shot lead over five players who are at four-under, although Marsh will wonder how he doesn’t lead after four of his five birdies came in his first five holes.
Last week’s winner James Allan is among that group at four-under-par, with a further ten players packed in behind at three-under after rounds of 67.