Dunbar and McGee match Johan Cruyff (and Lafeber)

Neither of them had football legend Johan Cruyff on their bag but Alan Dunbar and Ruaidhri McGee got their Challenge Tour seasons off to the perfect start when they opened with five under 66s in the Challenge de Catalunya.

The Ulster pair are tied for fifth with the likes of Maarte Lafeber, who had former Barcelona coach Cruyff as his bagman, just three shots behind Norwegian Joakim Mikkelsen (63) at Lumine Golf & Beach Club in Tarragona.

Mikkelsen, 24, made eight birdies to lead by a shot from France’s Adrien Saddier as Dunbar racked up seven birdies and two bogeys to four birdies, one bogey and a closing eagle three for McGee.

Waterville's David Higgins also started well, firing a three under 68 to share 24th with Dubliner Niall Kearney in 46th after a two under 69.

Gareth Shaw was four over early following a triple bogey eight at his seventh hole but recovered well to shoot a 73 that gives him a fighting chance of making the cut.

Lafeber said : “I’ve been good friends with Johan for 15 years and we have always played together at the Alfred Dunhill Links in the past. He lives close to here, and decided to come and caddie for me.

“We talked a bit about football and whilst he obviously doesn’t give me advice on golf, we talk about other related sports, which helps me a lot with my mental attitude. It’s great to have him here with me.”

Leader Mikkelsen said: “Obviously it went pretty well, especially on my back nine, when I played spectacularly (five under 30). This is my first event since November, and after that much time off, you never know what to expect. But this was definitely a better start than I expected.

“I was struggling with my putting, so I started exercising putting with one hand. It worked out well on the practice green so I said to myself, ‘why not try it on the course?’ And it’s worked out pretty well for me so far.”

Challenge de Catalunya

First Round Scores

63 J Mikkelsen (Nor)

64 A Saddier (Fra), 

65 C Arendell (USA), R Kind (Ned), 

66 C Shinkwin (Eng), J Pastor (Esp), R McGee (Irl), A Dunbar (Nir), J Lando Casanova  (Fra), M Lafeber (Ned), E Espana (Fra), C Bouniol (Fra), 

67 N Lemke (Swe), S Wakefield (Eng), G Woolgar (Eng), B Åkesson (Swe), J Sjöholm (Swe), B An (Kor), E Johansen  (Nor), M Lundberg (Swe), M Haastrup  (Den), N Ravano (Ita), P Widegren  (Swe),

68 C Mivis  (Bel), L Gagli  (Ita), L Jensen (Den), J Dantorp (Swe), G Lockerbie  (Eng), A Johnston (Eng), A Marshall (Eng), J Bragulat  (Esp), B Hebert  (Fra), P Edberg (Swe), A Tadini (Ita), A Hortal  (Esp), P Oriol (Esp), D Higgins (Irl), W Besseling  (Ned), S Arnold  (Aus), C Lloyd (Eng), M Ford (Eng), M Lorenzo-Vera  (Fra), B Evans  (Eng), L Nemecz (Aut), K Benz (Sui),

69 N Kimsey (Eng), X Guzman (Esp), D Brooks (Eng), P Figueiredo  (Por), G Piris Mateu (Esp), F Fritsch  (Ger), G Cambis  (Fra), B Virto  (Esp), S Henry  (Sco), J Lagergren (Swe), P Maddy (Eng), M Jonzon (Swe), N Kearney (Irl), M Quiros (Esp), S Tiley (Eng), L Goddard  (Eng), J Sarasti  (Esp), D Gaunt (Eng),

70 M Korhonen (Fin), D Ulrich (Sui), J Doherty  (Sco), C Aguilar  (Esp), R Davies (Wal), M Orrin (Eng), P McKechnie (Sco), P Archer (Eng), P Gal  (Cze), F Bergamaschi (Ita), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), D Kemmer (USA), D Gavins (Eng), L Kennedy  (Eng), P Martin Benavides (Esp), B Dredge (Wal), S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), T Lee (USA), J Gonnet  (Fra),

71 J Barnes (Eng), J Camargo (Esp), A Gee  (Eng), M Trappel  (Aut), J Lara (Esp), I Giner (Esp), J Guerrier  (Fra), C Macaulay  (Sco), B Stone (RSA), M Delpodio  (Ita), Z Scotland  (Eng), B Etchart  (Esp), T Van Der Walt (RSA), L Claverie (Esp), T Nørret (Den), C Russo (Fra), O Farr (Wal), J Huldahl (Den), D Law (Sco),

72 P Bech (Esp), B Pettersson (Swe), R Russell (Sco), J Rask (Swe), A Rota (Ita), M Wiegele  (Aut), S Luna (Esp), D Stewart (Sco), J Elson  (Eng), E Dubois (Fra), N Raymond (Eng), S Hutsby  (Eng),  O Wilson (Eng),  R McEvoy  (Eng),  L Corfield  (Eng),  T Linard (Fra),  A Björk (Swe),  P Relecom  (Bel),  T Sluiter  (Ned),  A Domingo (Esp)

73 C Hanson (Eng), N Quintarelli (Ita), A Velasco (Esp), N Thommen  (Sui), G Shaw (Nir), M Tullo (Chi), C Paisley  (Eng), H Sayin (Tur), B Ritthammer (Ger), A Garcia-Heredia (Esp),

74 X Ruiz Fonhof  (Ned), A McArthur  (Sco), R Steiner (Aut), A Snobeck  (Fra), D Frittelli (RSA), D Im (USA), D Coupland (Eng), J Palmer (Eng),

75 O Stark (Swe), S Little (Eng), T Pulkkanen  (Fin), O Floren  (Swe), R Coles (Eng), G Watremez (Bel), J Kennegard  (Swe), J Sierra (Esp),

76 M Dobias  (Sui), S Garcia (Esp),

77 J Legarrea (Esp),

78 A Rajmont  (Cze), S Piaget  (Mon), K Samooja (Fin), A Savolainen  (Fin),

79 R Hahn (Hun),

80 J Gallegos  (Esp).