James Sugrue showed no ill-effects after a long winter to return a spritely three-under par round of 69 on day one of the African Amateur at Leopard Creek.
The Mallow man, who wowed home crowds last year when winning The Amateur Championship at Portmarnock, turned a good day into a great one when finding two consecutive birdies to close out his round.
Sugrue had opened with an eagle at the par-5 second to race to two-under through two but posted two bogeys on the day long with three birdies for a first round effort that sees him sharing 4th at minus-three.
With South African Ryan Van Velzen out in front by three at eight under, the travelling Irish are already up against it in South Africa.
Malone’s Matthew McClean is best of the rest after trading three bogeys and three birdies in a solid even par start.
Dundalk ace Caolan Rafferty carded two late bogeys in his two-over par 74 while Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon is a shot further back at plus-three despite posting three birdies on his scorecard.
Holywood’s Tom McKibbin fired three birdies of his own in the same score of 75 with both players tied 30th ahead of day two at the 72-hole event.
Hermitage’s Rowan Lester (+7), Carton House’s Keith Egan (+9) and Naas amateur Rob Brazill (+12) will have better days ahead.
Full scoring HERE
South Africa squad to play the African Amateur (3-6 Feb) at Leopard Creek and the South African Stroke Play (10-13 Feb) in Randpark:
Robert Brazill (Naas); Keith Egan (Carton House); Rowan Lester (Hermitage); Matthew McClean (Malone); Tom McKibbin (Holywood); Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene); Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); James Sugrue (Mallow)
The GUI’s High Performance Programme is supported by Sport Ireland and Sport NI.