It was disappointing day for the Irish as Sam Walker shot a six under par round of 66 to claim a two-shot lead after day one of the Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort.
Headfort's Rory McNamara (T12) shot a two under 70 and Cormac Sharvin (T21) a 71 with amateur Colm Campbell from Warrenpoint and Irish PGA champion Niall Kearney posting level par 72s to sit just inside the projected cut mark.
The other 18 Irish entrants were over par though Dermot McElroy, Ruaidhri McGee, Gavin Moynihan, Neil O’Briain and Chris Selfridge with 74s and Kevin Phelan (75) limited the damage.
Walker, a four-time European Challenge Tour champion, who won his most recent title four weeks ago in Finland, made four birdies in nine holes to reach the turn in 33.
The Englishman, who broke the course record at Golf Club de Genève with a sublime ten under par opening round of 62 at the Rolex Trophy three weeks ago, then made four further gains over the front nine, his back nine, to take the clubhouse lead.
It was at the summit of the leaderboard where the 38 year old remained all day, and he is confident that he can sustain his impressive form over the next three rounds.
“I played very well,” he said. “I was on good form and I hit a lot of shots very close and didn’t have many long putts for birdies. That was the key for me today, I didn’t really need to think about holing a putt.
“I got a bit lucky on 18 where I came out of the rough and hit the bank of the water and my ball shot back across into the bunker, but other than that I was really solid. I can’t grumble and I have put myself in a good position for the next few days.
“I am feeling very confident at the moment. I was struggling at the start of the season with my putting, but I went away and worked at it and it just clicked in Finland. Then it was also good again at the Rolex.
“I changed my clubs in Finland and they are now the right weight, so I feel a lot more comfortable with them and I can attack the pins more.
“That has made a massive difference, especially on days like today where I am really in control and able to spin the ball on the greens. I can’t argue with my performance today as everything was good and everything was in play.
“It is a fantastic course this week – one of my favourite ones on the Challenge Tour. It plays tough with the par threes, which are very good par threes. I can’t really fault it!”
Two shots behind Walker are France’s Edouard Dubois, Holland’s Darius Van Driel and England’s Steven Brown.
Three off the lead is Paul Maddy, who made a hole-in-one on the par three sixth after holing out from 195 yards with a five iron.
Scores after round one:
66 S Walker (Eng),
68 D Van Driel (Ned), S Brown (Eng), E Dubois (Fra),
69 P Maddy (Eng), J Sarasti (Esp), A Rai (Eng), M Orrin (Eng), E Blom (Swe), J Dantorp (Swe), L Gagli (Ita),
70 Rory McNamara (Irl),
71 Cormac Sharvin (Nir),
72 Niall Kearney (Irl), Colm Campbell Jnr (am) (Irl),
74 Dermot McElroy (Nir), Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), Gavin Moynihan (Irl), Neil O’Briain (Irl), Chris Selfridge (Nir),
75 Kevin Phelan (Irl), Jeff Hopkins (Irl),
76 Richard Bridges (Irl), Conor O’Rourke (am) (Irl), Jack Hume (am) (Irl), Stuart Grehan (am) (Irl),
77 Gareth Shaw (Nir),
78 Gary Hurley (Irl), Brian Casey (Irl),
79 Alan Dunbar (Nir), Michael McGeady (Irl),
87 Richard O’Donovan (Irl),
90 Ciaran Boggan (Irl).