Waterville's David Higgins made a solid start in his bid to retain his European Tour card at the Final Qualifying School in Spain.

The 33-year-old drained a 20 footer for a birdie at his final hole to open his account with a level par 72 over the New Course at San Roque.

With the top 30 and ties after six rounds earning their playing privileges for 2007, Higgins finished the first round in a promising 10-way tie for 28th place.

But 1995 Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton cannot afford many more slip ups after returning a four over par 76 in testing, blustery conditions at the Cadiz venue.

Finland’s Antti Ahokas, the man who beat Rory McIlroy in a play-off for this year's Irish Amateur Open at Portmarnock, and English amateur Oliver Fisher fired four under par 68s to join former Irish Open winner Patrik Sjoland in a share of second place, three shots behind Norway's Eirik Tage Johansen, who fired a 65 on Thursday.

With the Old Course at San Roque closed for play until Monday due to recent heavy rain, the first half of the field will play their second rounds on the New Course today, giving Johansen and Sjoland the chance to move clear at the top.

Ahokas, Fisher, Higgins and Walton will not get to complete their second rounds until tomorrow (Sunday) with the third and fourth rounds set to be played over both the Old and New Courses on Monday and Tuesday.

Higgins is well place to make the top 70 and ties who will progress to the final two rounds but Walton has work to do to haul himself up from a share of 101st place.

Higgins said: "I've played well this year but my best finishes came in the smaller events so I am here at the school again and I have to get on with it.

"I played nice steady golf in tough conditions and I am more than happy with a 72."

Walton, 44,  lost a ball in bush at the fifth to run up a double bogey six but was still happy enough with a 76 that also featured one birdie and three bogeys.

The Dubliner said: "Given the conditions, a 76 is not a total disaster. I felt that I struck the ball well so I'm not  that unhappy with my start."

Flying Finn Ahokas, who is just 21, was delighted with his first competitive round as a professional but 18-year-old Fisher has not made up his mind to join him in the paid ranks just yet.

"Obviously I have to wait and see how this week goes and then take it from there," Fisher said. "The main thing for me this week is to concentrate and keep going."