Amateur Champion Alan Dunbar got his professional career off to a rip-roaring start with eight birdies - including three in his last four holes - at the Challenge de Madrid.
The Rathmore man was suitably delighted with his four under 68 but he will also be aware that there is no quarter given on the second tier tour as he finished the day tied for 14th with journeyman Francois Calmels three clear of the field after a nine under 63
“It was a great start as a pro,” Dunbar said on a day when amateur Javier Ballesteros, son of the late Seve, shot a 74. “I played really well. I hit lots of good shots and it was really nice.”
Dunbar got off to the perfect start with birdies at the first and second but bogeyed the 204-yard third and followed a birdie at the fourth with another bogey at the 210-yard fifth to slip back to one under.
“I hit a couple of wrong clubs on the par threes that cost me some bogeys but I managed to finish strongly,” added Dunbar, who turned in one under par.
He then birdied the par-five 10th but found himself back at level par with back-to-back bogeys at the 12th and 13th before he finished like a train with birdies at the 14th, the par-three 16th, par-four 17th and par-five 18th.
“I am very happy with my start. I felt very comfortable, hit good shots and enjoyed it a lot,” he said.
It was also a good day at the office for former Royal County Down assistant Simon Thornton as he scorched home in 30 blows (on the front nine), for a 67 that left him tied for sixth on five under.
The Huddersfield native was one over with nine to play but then ripped six birdies in eight holes after the turn - at the first, third and fourth before reeling off a hat-trick from the sixth.
Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw, the new touring professional for Galgorm Castle, carded a solid two under 70 to share 35th.
But the day belonged to Calmels, whose 63 established a new course record at El Encín Golf Hotel in the Spanish capital.
The 31-year old Frenchman, winner of the Challenge Tour’s 2009 Telenet Trophy, could even afford a bogey at the 16th after going ten under par through 14 holes.
The 31 year old opened with a birdie but two pars followed, giving little indication of the run on which he was about to embark.
Back to back birdies at the par five fourth and par three fifth took him to three under par before a par at the sixth was followed by five successive birdies from the seventh, taking him to the 12th tee on eight under par. He gained two more shots at the 13thand 14th before dropping his only shot of the day.
“It is definitely my best round in competition,” said Calmels, whose girlfriend is Ladies European Tour player Jade Schaeffer. “I drove the ball well, hit good iron shots, managed to hole all of my putts inside 15 feet. I didn’t make any mistakes, in fact the bogey was probably the hole where I had my best shot of the day.
“Yesterday my friends told me to go out and play nine holes and I decided not to because I had such a good feeling after my Monday practice round I did not want to change it. So I just walked with them and chipped a bit.
“Sometimes you play great but scores do not come along, but today they did. Everything just went great.“
Rhys Davies, a winner on The European Tour, was one of the players three shots back in tied second as he signed for a bogey-free round of 66.
The Welshman has been struggling for form of late but signalled a return to the kind of golf which earned him two Challenge Tour victories in 2009 on the way to graduating for The European Tour, where he made an immediate impact with a win at the 2010 Trophée Hassan II.
“I played great today and did everything right to be honest,“ said the 27 year old. “I hit solid putts, a few went in and a few stayed out.
“It is only one round but I am really pleased, it’s a good start. It’s been a long while since I have done that and hopefully things will start to come back.
“I am working with my old coach, David Llewllyn, again. We have not made any changes to my game, we are just working on playing like I know I can play and concentrate on improving all the time.”
Alongside Davies were Jens Dantorp of Sweden, Englishman Sam Hutsby and the best Spaniard after the opening day, Diego Suazo, who carded five birdies in six holes during a stunning front nine.
63 F Calmels (Fra),
66 S Hutsby (Eng), J Dantorp (Swe), R Davies (Wal), D Suazo (Esp) ,
67 P Archer (Eng), J Barnes (Eng), A Domingo (Esp), R Kakko (Fin), C Aguilar (Esp), S Thornton (Irl), T Nørret (Den), C Garcia Simarro (Esp) ,
68 M Zions (Aus), S Little (Eng), D Im (USA), D Griffiths (Eng), M Rominger (Sui), D Frittelli (RSA), A Dunbar (Nir) ,
69 D Ulrich (Sui), B Parker (Eng), E Johansen (Nor), P Erofejeff (Fin), M Korhonen (Fin), M Glauert (Ger), F Svanberg (Sui), S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), A Levy (Fra), J Timmis (Eng), T Pilkadaris (Aus), S Piaget (Mon), C Brazillier (Fra), E Dubois (Fra) ,
70 A Perrino (Ita), W Besseling (Ned), J Maurer (Aut), P Dwyer (Eng), A Bernadet (Fra), B An (Kor), J Howarth (Eng), R McEvoy (Eng), D Dixon (Eng), M Brier (Aut), M Lampert (Ger), F Bergamaschi (Ita), G Shaw (Nir) ,
71 A Salto (Esp), A Velasco (Esp), L Claverie (Esp), F Praegant (Aut), B Hebert (Fra), J Lima (Por), J San Felix (Esp), S Benson (Eng), R McGowan (Eng), S Luna (Esp), O Floren (Swe), C Lloyd (Eng), N Quintarelli (Ita), T Hatton (Eng), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), C Del Moral (Esp), J McLeary (Sco), N Elvira (Esp), D Wright (Eng), J Garcia (Esp), C Suneson (Esp), K Ferrie (Eng), S Walker (Eng) ,
72 M Madsen (Den), A Pavan (Ita), A Marshall (Eng), B Koepka (USA), M Crespi (Ita), T Pulkkanen (Fin), H Bacher (Aut), J Ruth (Eng), G Stal (Fra), M Sell (Eng), S Tiley (Eng), G Houston (Wal), B Ritthammer (Ger), J Senior (Eng), J Glennemo (Swe),
73 L Jensen (Den), D Kemmer (USA), X Guzman (Esp), S O’Hara (Sco), J Mommo (Fin), J Camargo (Esp), I Giner (Esp), P Maddy (Eng), P Oriol (Esp), J Moul (Eng), X Puig (Esp), V Blazquez (Esp), J Huldahl (Den), J Guerrier (Fra), F De Vries (Ned), A Otaegui (Esp), F Colombo (Ita), G Cambis (Fra), M Jonzon (Swe) ,
74 R Quiros (Esp), A Forsyth (Sco), P Bech (Esp), C Ford (Eng), S Arnold (Aus), P Fendt (Aut), O Bekker (RSA), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), V Riu (Fra), F McGuirk (Eng), A McArthur (Sco), L Saltman (Sco), I Pyman (Eng), J Elson (Eng), P Relecom (Bel), B Etchart (Esp), J Ballesteros (am) (Esp) ,
75 O Whiteley (Eng), M Veijalainen (Fin), D Brooks (Eng), D Gaunt (Aus), D Geminiani (Ita), D Law (Sco), K Borsheim (Nor), I Del Castillo (Esp), C Macaulay (Sco), M Nixon (Eng), N Vanhootegem (Bel), J Gallegos (am) (Esp),
76 M Prihoda (Cze), E Espana (Fra), G Seegmuller (Bel), P Edberg (Swe), S Kim (Kor), E Goya (Arg), T Murray (Eng), B Dredge (Wal), R Russell (Sco), N Ravano (Ita), L Goddard (Eng), J Legarrea (Esp), T Sluiter (Ned),
77 J Bragulat (Esp), T Haylock (Eng), G Murray (Sco), Å Nilsson (Swe),
78 O Wilson (Eng), A Gee (Eng), A Hortal (Esp), G Piris Mateu (Esp),
79 S Gonzalez Garcia (Esp),
80 D Vancsik (Arg).