Michael Hoey emerged from the doldrums with a hole-in-one helping him to a share of the lead in the AGF-Allianz Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne on the European Challenge Tour.
The Ulsterman has had a nightmare start to the 2008 season, missing his first three cuts on the spin in Argentina and Colombia.
But he put that behind him to card a four-under par 66 at Golf BlueGreen de Pléneuf Val André in Brittany to grab an early share of the clubhouse lead with playing partner and former Ryder Cup ace Joakim Haeggman.
After three birdies and two bogeys in his first 12 holes, Hoey aced the 120-yard 15th and then birdied the last to match Haeggman on four under.
Hoey said: "I thought to myself when I got on to the tee it would be a nice hole for a hole-in-one, and so it proved."
Haeggman, who lost his tour card last year, is only competing on the Challenge Tour after deciding to give golf "one last try", having considered quitting after losing his appetite for the game.
But after being reunited with Simon Holmes, who coached him to victory at the 2004 Qatar Masters, he has fallen back in love with the game.
After five birdies and a solitary bogey, Haeggman said: "In my darkest days, of course I considered quitting the game and doing something else.
"But I thought I’d give it one my year, and I’m glad I did. That’s the best I’ve played for at least two years. Hopefully I can earn my card on The European Tour and get back to where I was."
66 J Haegmann (Swe); M Hoey (NIR)
67 M Zions (Aus)
68 A Hogberg (Swe); A Butterfield (Eng); R Rock (Eng); S P Webster (Eng)
69 N Colsaerts (Bel)
70 R Ramsay (Sco)
71 C Menut (Fra); D Park (Wal); M Dieu (Fra); A S Hansen (Den); R Cabrera Bello (Esp)
72 S Benson (Eng); T Dier (Ger); M Higley (Eng); J Huldahl (Den); G Maybin (NIR); T Feyrsinger (Aut); A Tadini (Ita); J Clément (Sui)
73 M Thorp (Nor); J-M Gougeon (Fra); A Tampion (Aus)
74 L Gagli (Ita); M Quiros (Esp); I van Weerelt (Ned); J M Hoyos (Col); S Jeppesen (Swe); K Sullivan (Wal)
75 A Andersson (Swe); G Canizares (Esp); R Guillard (Fra); S Browne (Ire); I Goroneskoul (Fra)