Simon Thornton shot a 68 but found himself five strokes adrift of Frenchman Edouard Dubois after the first round of the Fred Olsen Challenge de España.
Despite a strong, swirling wind at the stunning Tecina Golf layout on the small Canary island of La Gomera, Dubois shot a stunning eight under par 63 to take a slender, one-shot lead over compatriot Julien Guerrier, Germany’s Nicolas Meitinger and American Brooks Koepka.
The standard of golf on display was outstanding with 47 players finishing under par despite the testing conditions.
The men in red numbers included Thornton, who had five birdies and two bogeys to share 15th, Ballymena’s Chris Devlin, who is making his first appearance of the season, with a 69 and Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw, 31st after making five birdies in a 70.
Devlin is taking advantage of his first call up in Europe this year to get home [he’s also on the reserve list for next week’s Challenge Tour event in the Czech Republic] and remain near base in case he gets a late invitation to tee it up in the Irish Open at Carton House.
Last year, he did not get the news that he was in the field for Royal Portrush until the Monday of tournament week.
Dubois, 23, got off to a flying start, carding a hat-trick of birdies over the opening three holes before a further trio of birdies from the ninth saw him surge to six under.
The two-time Challenge Tour winner’s only dropped shot came at the short 14th after missing the green from the tee, but he bounced back in style, closing out with a birdie at the 16th before a valuable 25-foot eagle putt at the long 17th helped Dubois soar into a one shot advantage over the field following the first day’s play in Spain.
“I hit the ball very well from the tee and my short game was really good because here it is very difficult to get close to the pin,” said Dubois. “My putting was also really nice today. I like the course, the place is fantastic.”
Fred Olsen Challenge de España
63 E Dubois (Fra);
64 J Guerrier (Fra); B Koepka (USA); N Meitinger (Ger);
65 J Legarrea (Esp);
66 P Herreria (Esp);
67 B Ritthammer (Ger); D Ulrich (Sui); L Bjerregaard (Den); I Korvenmaa (Fin); P Relecom (Bel); M Pastor (Esp); T Pilkadaris (Aus); V Riu (Fra);
68 E Bertheussen (Nor); A Otaegui (Esp); D Stewart (Sco); S Thornton (Irl); S Hutsby (Eng); J Maurer (Aut);
69 J Timmis (Eng); J Heath (Eng); C Devlin (Nir); O Whiteley (Eng); L Claverie (Esp); D Brooks (Eng); R Steiner (Aut); S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp); A Bernadet (Fra); S Kim (Kor);
70 N Elvira (Esp); B An (Kor); M Ford (Eng); J Watts (Eng); C Hanson (Eng); D Wuensche (Ger); A Garcia-Heredia (Esp); G Shaw (Nir); D Palm (Swe); N Quintarelli (Ita); A Pavan (Ita); J Parron (Esp); L Goddard (Eng); D Frittelli (RSA); M Haremza (Ger); M Quiros (Esp); C Russo (Fra);
71 R Kellett (Sco); T Fournier (Fra); J Abbott (Eng); P Archer (Eng); A Rota (Ita); E Espana (Fra); J Lando Casanova (Fra); D Geminiani (Ita); C Garcia Simarro (Esp); J Bragulat (Esp); M Haastrup (Den); S Manley (Wal); P Fendt (Aut); B Hafthorsson (Isl);
72 D Borda (Esp); L Kennedy (Eng); J Fahrbring (Swe); J Carlsson (Swe); C Robles (Esp); N Dahlgren (Fin); F Cea (Esp); J Barnes (Eng); M Rominger (Sui); E Johansen (Nor); T Nørret (Den); B Etchart (Esp); R Mattila (Fin); S Walker (Eng); R Harris (Eng); J McLeary (Sco); S Fallon (Eng); W Booth (Sco);
73 B Chapellan (Fra); F Adarraga (Esp); G Piris Mateu (Esp); J Mommo (Fin); J Gibb (Eng); P Maddy (Eng); A Maestroni (Ita); S Jeppesen (Swe); D Griffiths (Eng); C Ford (Eng); J Doherty (Sco); T Sluiter (Ned); C Kim (USA); P Oriol (Esp);
74 J Frazer (Wal); C Suneson (Esp); M Novy (Cze); J Garcia Pinto (Esp); J Wahlqvist (Swe); D Perrier (Fra); R Quiros (Esp); P Simard (Esp); A Engell (Nor); K Borsheim (Nor); F Laporta (Ita); D Im (USA); A Johansson (Swe); N Ravano (Ita); M Saiz (Esp);
75 S Piaget (Mon); F Bergamaschi (Ita); D Vancsik (Arg); G Cuquejo (Esp); M Haines (Eng); F De Vries (Ned); R Sebastian (Esp); D Kemmer (USA); G Gancedo Onieva (Esp); J Moul (Eng); P Bech (Esp); A Perrino (Ita); J Camargo (Esp); M Hermans (Bel); P Edberg (Swe); K Ferrie (Eng);
76 A Velasco (Esp); F Delamontagne (Fra); M Kramer (Ger); J Orozco (Esp); S O’Hara (Sco);
77 L Saltman (Sco); J Adarraga Gomez (Esp); A Hortal (Esp);
78 C Gonzalez Lopez (Esp); I Brown (Eng); J Ferraby (Eng);
80 A Rajmont (am) (Cze)