Colm Moriaty carded a course record equalling seven under par 65 to take a firm grip of proceedings on the opening day of the HBE Risk Management PGA Ulster Championship at Hilton Templepatrick.
The 35-year-old, collected five birdies and an eagle in a flawless round of golf at the Co Antrim venue and leads defending champion, Niall Kearney, and Mark O'Sullivan by three shots heading into tomorrow's second and final round.
Moriarty has finished second in his last two events on the PGA in Ireland circuit and is collectively 16 under par for his last four rounds of golf.
“I've been playing quite nicely this last few weeks but obviously I stepped things up a gear today,” said Moriarty.
“I played well in the second round at the Connemara Pro-Am last weekend and could probably have been a bit better and I suppose I continued that on today.”
Moriarty made his score on the par fives yesterday, going to the turn in four under 32 with a birdie at the par five third, an eagle at the par five fifth and another birdie at the par four sixth.
He picked up another shot at the par four 10th and finished his round off in style with birdies at the par five 16th and 18th.
“I played very nicely. You have to hole a few putts when you shoot seven under but I was on the fairway all the time and when I missed a couple of greens I managed to get it up and down,” added Colm.
“The eagle at five followed by the birdie at six got me to four under after six, that was a great start.”
Kearney was one-under after 12 holes of his round but finished strongly with a birdie at the par four 14th followed by an eagle at the 16th, courtesy of a 50 foot putt! O'Sullivan notched up eight birdies in total, but four bogeys left him tied for second alongside Kearney.
The leading trio will tee off at 12.10am today.
HBE Risk Management PGA Ulster Championship
1 Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel & GC) 65
T2 Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin GC) 68
T2 Mark O'Sullivan (Piltown Driving Range) 68
T4 Daniel Beattie (Deer Park Hotel, Golf & Spa) 69
T4 Mark Whelan (Castlewarden Golf & CC) 69
T6 Donal Gleeson (Old Conna GC) 70
T6 David Ryan (Cahir Park GC) 70
T8 Brendan McGovern (Headfort GC) 71
T8 Colin Lyttle (Ballyclare GC) 71
T8 John Kelly (St Margaret's Golf & CC) 71
T8 Neil O'Briain (Old Conna GC) 71