Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee rattled off seven birdies in a bogey free 65 to share second spot behind Spain’s Alfredo Garcia-Heredia after the opening round of the Challenge de Madrid.
The 24-year old had an injury plagued 2014 but he’s fit again and back on song after spending the winter practicing in California.
And after hitting five birdies on in a back nine of 31 at El Encin Golf Hotel, he’s just a stroke off the pace feeling good about his chances of a maiden tour win.
“It was good today, I just played really solid,” McGee said. "Fairways and greens, holed a few putts on the back nine too.
"I played well in Kenya but didn’t get much out of it, so I was looking forward to playing this week and I’m playing pretty well so I’ll see how it goes.
“I headed off to Palm Springs in California for a month over the winter, as I’ve got some friends out there, so I got in a bit of warm weather practice. I played a bit in Portugal just before Madeira too.”
Starting on the back nine, McGee birdied the 14th and 18th to turn in two under and then made a hat-trick of birdies from the first before picking up two more shots at the sixth and ninth, both par fours.
“I didn’t think this course would suit me as it is wide and I don’t hit it that long,” added McGee. “But I enjoy putting and there are plenty of slopes out there, so I enjoyed it. This course is all about the second shot, and it is soft, so you know it is going to stop.
“I’ll take three more of those, so we’ll see. I’ve got a medical extension for the first three events, so I just need to get my category up so I can play more events the rest of the year.”
An eagle two at his penultimate hole sent Garcia-Heredia hurtling straight to the top of affairs as the Spaniard carded an eight under par 64 in the opening round.
The 33-year old from Gijon put the finishing touches on an exemplary opening salvo with a holed wedge on the par four 17th hole, which alongside eight further birdies and a couple of dropped shots sees him lead by one.
There are three players just a stroke shy of the leading Spaniard’s impressive total with McGee, Frenchman Sebastien Gros and Michael Jonzon of Sweden all seven under.
Peter Lawrie, making a rare sojourn onto the Challenge Tour, had eight birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey six at his 15th hole in a four under 68 worth a share of 16th.
Gareth Maybin had two bogeys, a double bogey seven and five birdies in a one under 71 to tie for 61st with Stephen Grant joint 93rd after a 73 and Simon Thornton sharing 116th after a 74.
Challenge de Madrid, El Encin Golf Hotel (Par 72, 7.539 yards)
64 A Garcia-Heredia (Esp),
65 Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), S Gros (Fra), M Jonzon (Swe)
66 N Elvira (Esp), R Gouveia (Por), N Ravano (Ita), J Sarasti (Esp)
67 A McArthur (Sco), S Kim (USA), S Soderberg (Swe), D Foos (Ger), R Kellett (Sco), J Glennemo (Swe), E Cuartero Blanco (Esp)
68 M Trappel (Aut), R Kakko (Fin), C Hanson (Eng), W Harrold (Eng), T Murray (Eng), P Maddy (Eng), Peter Lawrie (Irl), J Billing (Swe), J Lara (Esp), J Fahrbring (Swe)
69 G Porteous (Eng), A Gee (Eng), P Oriol (Esp), C Aguilar (Esp), P Figueiredo (Por), J Rask (Swe), S Wakefield (Eng), A Hartø (Den), P Martin Benavides (Esp), B Ritthammer (Ger), S Tiley (Eng), S Fallon (Eng), B Stone (RSA)
70 D Stewart (Sco), K Ferrie (Eng), D Gaunt (Eng), G Murray (Sco), V Blazquez (Esp), C Del Moral (Esp), A Saddier (Fra), E Saltman (Sco), H Satama (Fin), S Manley (Wal), C Gloet (Den), J Garcia Del Moral (Esp), T Linard (Fra), S Walker (Eng), C Berardo (Fra), M Delpodio (Ita), J McLeary (Sco), N Kimsey (Eng), A Tadini (Ita), C Paisley (Eng), J Senior (Eng), D Suazo Gonzalez (Esp)
71 A Bernadet (Fra), E Goya (Arg), T Pulkkanen (Fin), A Velasco (Esp), B Åkesson (Swe), J Makitalo (Fin), T Sluiter (Ned), B Stow (Eng), N Lemke (Swe), L Tintera (Cze), F Calmels (Fra), S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), G Lockerbie (Eng), H Joannes (Bel), J Gallegos (Esp), B Virto Astudillo (Esp), S Luna (Esp), J Dantorp (Swe), M Orrin (Eng), L Gagli (Ita), P Whiteford (Sco), Gareth Maybin (Nir), V Riu (Fra)
72 S Henry (Sco), C Balmaseda (Esp), P Archer (Eng), M Søgaard (Den), C Shinkwin (Eng), D Im (USA), A Ahokas (Fin), J Gonnet (Fra), J Walters (RSA)
73 A Hortal (Esp), J Bragulat (Esp), D Coupland (Eng), R Davies (Wal), M Lafeber (Ned), C Bouniol (Fra), L Nemecz (Aut), B Etchart (Esp), D Ulrich (Sui), J Stalter (Fra), P Dwyer (Eng), R Coles (Eng), B Evans (Eng), J Lima (Por), J Guerrier (Fra), W Booth (Sco), Stephen Grant (Irl), F Bergamaschi (Ita), S Heisele (Ger), T Nemecz (Aut), P Herreria (Esp), G Woolgar (Eng), J Smith (Eng)
74 J Ballesteros (Esp), D Law (Sco), D Huizing (Ned), P Widegren (Swe), N Raymond (Eng), A Pavan (Ita), J Scrivener (Aus), M Wiegele (Aut), J Hansen (Den), J Doherty (Sco), J Legarrea (Esp), A Halvorsen (Nor), Simon Thornton (Irl)
75 A Snobeck (Fra), K Benz (Sui), N Quintarelli (Ita), J Huldahl (Den), A Rota (Ita), F Andersson Hed (Swe), C Mivis (Bel), E Larrañaga (Esp)
76 K Hesbois (Bel), C McDonnell (Eng), M Stewart (Sco), R Evans (Eng), J Simon De Miguel (Esp), X Ruiz Fonhof (Ned), N Bertasio (Ita), M Galiano Aguilar (am) (Esp)
77 L Motta (Ita), C Ford (Eng), T Elissalde (Fra), P Gal (Cze), R Hahn (Hun)
78 P Relecom (Bel), S Brown (Eng), A Domingo (Esp), E Dubois (Fra), P Howard (Eng), N Geyger (Chi)
80 D Suchan (Cze).