John-Ross Galbraith made the most of home comforts as he claimed a one-shot lead after the opening day of the Motocaddy Northern Irish Masters at Clandeboye.
The Whitehead man mixed six birdies — including back-to-back at the 16th and 17th — with just one bogey to rise to the top of the leaderboard and claim the early lead at the Dufferin Course after a five-under 66.
Galbraith holds a slender advantage, with Ireland’s Conor O’Rourke and English pair Adam Chapman and Joshua McMahon all carding four-under 67s, with Ben Robinson a shot further behind in solo fifth after a 68.
With lightning-quick greens and a tough set-up at Clandeboye, only 22 players of the 125-player field were able to finish under-par, with one of those being Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy.
The 28-year-old is on the verge of gaining promotion to the Challenge Tour, currently third in the EuroPro Tour’s Order of Merit and needing to finish in the top-five, and he opened strongly with a two-under 69 which has him tied alongside Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan and impressive Clandeboye amateur Matthew Murphy.
Defending champion Simon Thornton also had a solid opening round as he bounced back superbly from three bogeys in five holes with three straight birdies on his inward nine for a one-under 70, the same score as Colin Fairweather.
Ronan Mullarney, Paul Murphy and Brendan McCarroll all ended the day where they started after level-par 71s, with Rhys Clarke posting a 72.
Chris Carroll and Rowan Lester are just inside the cut mark after a two-over 73, while Liam Grehan is one shot on the other side following a three-over 74.
Clandeboye club champion, amateur Finlay Eager, is a shots further back at four-over following a 75, the same score as Brendan Lawlor, Daniel Brennan and Daniel Mulligan.
Owen Crooks and Michael Dallat finished the day at five-over after a pair of 76s, Luke Donnelly and another Clandeboye amateur, Euan Knox, signed for 77s, with Tim Rice and Co Sligo amateur Ruairi O’Connor finishing with 78s.
Conor Coyne shot an 80, with John Hickey and Aaron Lennie finishing with 83s, while Nicky Grant fired an 85.