Big-hitter Damian Mooney followed the longest drive of the week with a super 68 at the European Tour Qualifying School Finals in Spain.
The powerful Belfast man, 42, was forced to fly to Alicante instead of Girona because of airport chaos in Ireland.
But despite having to make a 400-mile drive to get to the course on time, he blasted a two under 68 on the Tour Course at PGA Catalunya Resort to head the four-strong Irish posse when the weather-delayed first round finally concluded.
Tied for 20th in the race for a top-30 place after six rounds, Mooney beamed: “Dublin was closed because of the snow and the only place they could fly me from Belfast was Alicante
“I played scrappy enough and didn’t feel that great but it’s behind me now and 68 is a good start.”
Severe frost forced officials to suspend the first round on Saturday but when play resumed, none of the other Irish hopefuls could break par on the tougher Stadium Course.
Former Royal County Down assistant Simon Thornton was tied for the overnight lead on three-under par but bogeyed his last three holes to open with a level par 72.
Glasson’s Colm Moriarty battled to a two over 74 as he got up and down from 100 yards for a par at the tricky ninth following a drive into the trees and an adventurous slash back to civilisation.
The Athlone man is playing with a substitute driver after the head of his regular club “disintegrated” during his warm up on Saturday.
“It played a lot tougher than yesterday and I was thrown off a little bit with my (Callaway) driver breaking because that has never happened to me before,” said Moriarty, who was rattled by a double bogey five at the eighth, where his tee shot kicked left into the woods. “Luckily they had one in the tour van with a similar shaft and I hit it okay.”
“I was getting stuck on the downswing and losing a lot of shots to the right so spell on the range should do it,” Kearney said after bogeys at the fifth, sixth and eighth, where he three putted from 18 feet.
England’s Steve Lewton fired a faultless, seven-under 63 on the Tour Course to lead by a shot from former Challenge of Ireland winner Andrew Tampion and Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin.
Australia’s Rick Kulacz, Denmark’s Thomas Norret and Sweden’s Jens Dantrop carded three under 69s to lead the scoring at the Stadium Course, where the top 70 and ties after 72 holes will play the last two rounds. Barring further delays, the “school” will now finish on Friday, one day later than scheduled.
Final Qualifying School, PGA Catalunya Resort (*amateur)
Tour Course (Par 70)
63 S Lewton;
64 A Tampion (Aus), J-F Lucquin (Fra);
66 A Gee, B Grace (RSA), J Doherty, C Monasterio (Arg), W Ormsby (Aus), L Bond, E Saltman, J Campillo (Esp);
67 E Tage Johansen (Nor), L Dodd, T Mordt (RSA), F Ohlsson (Swe), C Doak;
68 M Ruiz (Par), L Saltman, A Tadini (Ita), C Del Moral (Esp), V Riu (Fra), A Bruschi (Ita), Damian Mooney (N. Ire), S Norris (RSA), A Harto (Den);
69 J Knutzon (USA), R Russell, F Valera (Esp), M Kramer (Ger), R Steiner (Aut), F Fritsch (Ger), E Canonica (Ita), A Canete (Arg), V Dubuisson (Fra), J Robinson, A Kaleka (Fra), B Chapellan (Fra), R De Sousa (Sui), F Henge (Swe) T Sherreard*, C Lloyd*;
70 E Dubois (Fra), C Brazillier (Fra), L Gagli (Ita), J Legarrea (Esp), N Bollini (USA), N Meitinger (Ger), M Kieffer (Ger), J Ruth, T Feyrsinger (Aut), M Tunnicliff;
71 G Emerson, C Gane, M Soffietti (Ita); J McLeary, A Grenier (Fra), J-A Larsen (Nor), C Suneson (Esp), B Pieters (RSA), S Little;
72 P Dwyer, J Van Zyl (Rsa), F Calmels (Fra), C Carranza (Arg), D Vancsik (Arg), T Sluiter (Ned), L Westerberg (Swe), C Ford, S Drummond;
73 J Barnes, J Colomo (Esp), D Beck (Aus), SSP Chowrasia (Ind);
74 M Rosenfeld (USA), M Vibe-Hastrup (Den);
75 F Colombo (Ita);
76 J Elson;
77 S Bebb, R Bescansa (Esp).
Stadium Course (Par 72)
69 T Norret (Den), R Kulacz (Aus), J Dantorp (Swe);
70 D Lokke (Den), D Denison (Eng), B Ritthammer (Ger), S Garcia (Esp), A Garcia-Heredia (Esp), J Haeggman (Swe), B Evans, P Edberg (Swe), S Wakefield;
71 E Kofstad (Nor), R Wattel (Fra), M Brier (Aut), P Oriol (Esp), B Etchart (Esp), S Davis (Eng), A Snobeck (Fra), R Kakko (Fin);
72 S Arnold (Aus), R Kind (Ned), B Hebert (Fra), JF Lima (Por), M Warren, Simon Thornton (Irl), J Guerrier (Fra), S Luna (Esp), M Bliss (Can), L Claverie (Esp), G Coetzee (Rsa);
73 P Broadhurst, S Tiley, T Whitehouse, T Leon (USA), A Forsyth, M Lundberg (Swe), J Clement (Sui), G Bhullar (Ind), M Korhonen (Fin);
74 Colm Moriarty (Irl), M Erlandsson (Swe), B Miarka (Ger), S Hend (Aus), J Backstrom (Swe), J.M. Arruti (Esp), N Johansson (Swe), S Manley (Wal), G Adell (Swe), M Quiros (Esp), J Grillon (Fra), M Southgate*, M Nixon*;
75 S Harrington (USA), F Delamontagne (Fra), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), J Sandelin (Swe), A Ahokas (Fin), A Coltart (Sco), A Haig (Rsa), J Pettersson (Swe), P Gustafsson (Swe);
76 A Perrino (Ita), O Fraustro (Mex), Niall Kearney (Irl);
77 A Hall (Aus), M Cryer, C.E. Russo (Fra), O David (Fra), A Jacobsson (Swe), D Brooks (Eng), S Walker (Eng), V Almstrom (Swe);
78 J Etulain (Arg), J Lagergren (Swe), S Hutsby;
80 B Hafthorsson (Isl);
83 M Dam (Den)