PGA Irish Region regulars David Higgins and Mark Staunton were the best of the 16 Irish hopefuls after the opening round of the European Tour Qualifying School Second Stage in Spain.
Higgins, 39, opened with a one under 71 at El Saler in Valencia to share fourth place, two strokes behind pacesetter Chan Kim of the United States.
At least 17 players from each of the four Stage Two venues will earn a the place at Final Stage at the PGA Catalunya Resort at the end of the month.
The exact number of spots available to the six-round final will not be determined until the conclusion of the UBS Hong Kong and South African Opens, both of which finish on Sunday, November 18.
Simon Thornton, forced to return to Stage Two after finishing 157th in the Race to Dubai with € 88,599 from 18th starts, is tied for 13th at El Saler after a one over 73 while Gareth Shaw’s two over 74 left him just outside the top 17 in 21st.
Murcia based Ruaidhri McGee birdied two of his last four holes for a 75 that was good enough for joint 29th but Portmarnock’s Noel Fox ended up on five over as he made just one birdie in a 77 that puts him under pressure from the start.
Staunton continued the fine form that saw him win his Stage One qualifier when he birdied three of his last six holes at Lumine Golf and Beach Club in Tarragona to post a three under 68 that was good enough for joint ninth, four shots behind Liam Bond of Wales and England’s Jamie Abbott, who carded seven under 64s.
Niall Kearney’s one under 70 left him tied 26th with Jonny Caldwell 45th after a one over 72.
But it was a disappointing day for Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar, the British Amateur champion, as he ended up second last in the 74-man field following a four over 75.
Dunbar was forced to turn down an invitation to play on the Japan Tour following the illness that forced him to sit out the Eisenhower Trophy in Turkey recently.
At Las Colinas in Alicante, Ballymena’s Chris Devlin and Ballyliffin’s Brendan McCarroll are tied for 17th, three shots off the pace, after level par 71s with Waterville’s Mark Murphy just outside the qualifying spots after a one over 72.
Warrenpoint’s Barrie Trainor went to the turn in level par at the same venue but covered his final nine holes, the front nine, in four over for a 75 that left him well down the field in joint 54th.
At El Valle in Murcia it was a good day for 30-year old Douglas native Peter O’Keeffe as he opened with a level par 71 to share 14th spot and trail the quartet of leaders by just two shots.
The top 47 players are covered by just six strokes with Newlands’ Cian Curley tied 32nd after a 73 and Limerick’s Tim Rice joint 39th as he dropped three shots in his last three holes for a 74.
European Tour Qualifying School - Second Stage - November 7-10
1 Chan KIM USA 69 (-3)
T4 David HIGGINS Waterville Golf Links 71 (-1)
T13 Simon Thornton Team Ireland 73 (+1)
T21 Gareth SHAW Team Ireland 74 (+2)
T29 Ruaidhri MCGEE Golf 525 Murcia 75 (+3)
T45 Noel FOX Portmarnock 77 (+5)
T1 Tim SLUITER Ned, Taco REMKES Ned, Florian FRITSCH Ger, 67 (-4)
T17 Chris DEVLIN Team Ireland 71 (E)
T17 Brendan McCARROLL Team Ireland 71 (E)
T23 Mark MURPHY 72 (+1)
T54 Barrie TRAINOR Mayobridge GC 75 (+4)
T1 Jacon GLENNEMO Swe, Max ROEHRIG (AM) Ger, Sean WHIFFIN Eng, Chris GANE Eng 68 (-3)
T14 Peter O’KEEFFE Muskerry GC 71 (E)
T32 Cian CURLEY Team Ireland 73 (+2)
T39 Tim RICE Limerick GC 74 (+3)
T1 Liam BOND Wal, Jamie ABBOTT Eng 64 (-7)
T9 Mark STAUNTON Ballinasloe GC 68 (-3)
T26 Niall KEARNEY Royal Dublin 70 (-1)
T45 Jonathan CALDWELL Clandeboye GC 72 (+1)
T73 Alan DUNBAR (AM) Rathmore GC 75 (+4)