West of Ireland runner up Alan Dunbar and Skerries’ Jeff Hopkins made promising starts to the prestigous Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
The pair carded four over par 74s on a day of tricky east winds and even trickier pin positions to trail Heysham’s Jack Senior by just three strokes and share 10th place.
Defending champion Paul Cutler, who beat Dunbar 4 and 2 in Tuesday’s final of the “West” at Rosses Point , opened with a 75 that left him well-placed in a share of 16th place with Dunmurry’s Stephen Crowe and Newlands’ Andrew Hogan.
Mourne’s Reeve Whitson and Florida-based Walker Cup hopeful Kevin Phelan shot 76 as 17-year old Ballymena star Dermot McElroy posted a 78 and Greystones’ Paul Dunne a disappointing 81.
No-one in the 141-strong field broke par with Senior’s 71 giving him a slender, one-stroke lead over Welwyn Garden City’s Tom Lewis and French pair Arnaud Abbas and Alexander Michael Levy.
There were five Frenchmen in the top-five with Jerome Lando Casanova tied for fifth with Troon’s Michael Stephen Smyth, Hessle’s Paul Lockwood, Notts’ Richard Smith and Daniel Huizing of the Netherlands.