Alan Dunbar might have missed four of five cuts since he turned professional but he made up for those disappointments on a magical day at Spey Valley when he blasted a course record 62 to grab a share of the lead in the Scottish Hydro Challenge.
It was the Rathmore man’s lowest round of his fledgling career in the professional ranks and good enough for joint top spot with another former British Amateur champion, the Korean Byeong-hun An, who had nine birdies in a bogey free effort.
Dunbar got off to a poor start after teeing off at the 11th, bogeying his opening two holes, but that did not deter him as he fired 11 birdies to smash the course record almost exactly a year after his biggest win as an amateur.
“I was in just the zone,” said Dunbar, whose Amateur Championship win came at Royal Troon in Scotland. “I’ve been playing well all year now, shooting good scores but missing the cut by a couple of shots. It’s good to put it all together and have a strong round.
“I felt like a round like this was coming. I have been saying to my coach that I am playing well, and most of my rounds could easily have been four or five better. Even after the start I was confident of hitting good shots.”
Barely 30 minutes after Dunbar came in with that record-breaking score, US-based An also signed for a 62.
In contrast to Dunbar, An did not card a single bogey as he shot nine birdies on the way to his lowest round as a professional.
“I really like this course but it’s actually fairly hard,” said the 21 year old. “There are some hard holes. It is pretty long and gets pretty tough if you don’t drive it very well. I missed the cut last year but this year I guess it suits me better.
“I was never thinking about 59 to be honest,” he continued. “I fired well on the front nine but the back nine is definitely harder. I just wanted to make par on the harder holes – 11 and 12 are the hardest - and just get through those holes and see what happens.”
Spaniard Sebi Garcia was a shot back after carding an eight under par 63 while there were seven players three shots further back on six under par, including former Challenge Tour Grand Final winner Andrea Pavan and local favourite Duncan Stewart, who lives just 15 minutes from this week’s venue.
Colm Moriarty made a positive return to the tour after an eight-month absence, carding a two under 69 to share 47th place with Portstewart’s Paul Cutler and Challenge Tour regular Gareth Shaw.
Niall Kearney’s 70 leaves him with work to do to make the halfway cut while Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe may need at least a 66 after making two double bogeys in a three over 74.
62 B An (Kor), A Dunbar (Nir),
63 S Garcia (Esp),
65 N Lemke (Swe), J Dantorp (Swe), A Pavan (Ita), D Stewart (Sco), T Hatton (Eng), D Frittelli (RSA), J Watts (Eng),
66 G Cambis (Fra), C Russo (Fra), E Dubois (Fra), J McLeary (Sco), J Carlsson (Swe), T Remkes (Ned), A Velasco (Esp), J Doherty (Sco),
67 K Ferrie (Eng), J Moul (Eng), P Doherty (Sco), J Lima (Por), S Tiley (Eng), T Murray (Eng), L Kennedy (Eng), P McKechnie (Sco), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), B Hebert (Fra), S Walker (Eng),
68 K Borsheim (Nor), G Dear (Sco), T Nørret (Den), S Parry (Eng), J Gibb (Eng), C Kelly (Sco), M Trappel (Aut), P Maddy (Eng), G Hutcheon (Sco), N Fenwick (Sco), D Dixon (Eng), J Guerrier (Fra), S Manley (Wal), R Kellett (Sco), J Huldahl (Den), J Mommo (Fin), G Wright (Wal),
69 A Bernadet (Fra), P Cutler (Nir), A Johnston (Eng), A Forsyth (Sco), P Edberg (Swe), R Enoch (Wal), C Moriarty (Irl), S Kim (Kor), F Bergamaschi (Ita), M Sell (Eng), R Russell (Sco), N McCarthy (Eng), A Gee (Eng), G Murray (Sco), G Shaw (Nir), J Mikkelsen (Nor), T Pilkadaris (Aus),
70 L Corfield (Eng), A McArthur (Sco), T Pieters (Bel), J Hepworth (Eng), B Koepka (USA), J Fahrbring (Swe), M Ford (Eng), N Kearney (Irl), J Abbott (Eng), R Quiros (Esp), L Saltman (Sco), V Riu (Fra), L Bond (Wal), L Bjerregaard (Den), J Garcia Pinto (Esp),
71 M Kerr (Sco), T Sluiter (Ned), E Saltman (Sco), B Etchart (Esp), N Quintarelli (Ita), Z Saltman (Sco), D Geminiani (Ita), L Goddard (Eng), N Ravano (Ita), P Relecom (Bel), D Kemmer (USA), T Haylock (Eng), D Wuensche (Ger), A Domingo (Esp), S Hutsby (Eng), S Henderson (Sco), F McGuirk (Eng), F Calmels (Fra), L Claverie (Esp), R Dinwiddie (Eng),
72 E Johansen (Nor), A Perrino (Ita), G Houston (Wal), O Rozner (Fra), S Hodgson (Eng), T Fournier (Fra), N Elvira (Esp), D Law (Sco), D Griffiths (Eng), O Wilson (Eng), P Archer (Eng), O Whiteley (Eng), M Novy (Cze), N Dougherty (Eng), S Dodd (Wal), P Oriol (Esp), B Parker (Eng),
73 J Senior (Eng), F Colombo (Ita), J Timmis (Eng), M Haines (Eng), C Gane (Eng), J Ruth (Eng), P Dwyer (Eng), S Whiffin (Eng), J Glennemo (Swe), D Vancsik (Arg),
74 M Stewart (Sco), P O’Keeffe (Irl), B Dredge (Wal), W Booth (Sco), S Davis (Eng), J Lando Casanova (Fra), C Aguilar (Esp), B Chapellan (Fra), D Perrier (Fra),
75 J Maurer (Aut), S O’Hara (Sco), L Clarke (Eng), C Brazillier (Fra), S McAllister (Sco), D Im (USA), J Howarth (Eng), M Haremza (Ger), C Ford (Eng), M Haastrup (Den),
76 Å Nilsson (Swe), O Bekker (RSA), C Trahan (Sco), F Cromarty (Sco), W Besseling (Ned),
77 D Wright (Eng),
78 S Park (Kor), F Svanberg (Sui),
79 R Saxton (Ned), N Floren (Swe),
80 D Waite (Eng),
81 S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp)