Colm Moriarty led a powerful first day performance by the Irish in the 2016 PGA Play-Offs at Saunton in Devon.
The Drive Golf Performance Centre pro carded a five birdie round of 69 in tough conditions to set the pace alongside Matthew Cort and Paul Streeter.
And just a stroke further back on -1 are Neil O’Briain of Old Conna Golf Club and Damien McGrane.
It leaves the trio of Irish stars perfectly placed for a charge at the title in the four round event which carries a £2,000 winner’s cheque plus the chance to play in European Tour events next season.
The top ten finishers are guaranteed a place in next year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth while there are two places up for grabs at the British Masters as well three spots in the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team.
Moriarty’s round warmed up in the autumn chill with three birdies in four holes either side of the turn.
Two dropped shots pegged him back to level par before a sparkling run of two birdies in the last four lifted him to the top of the leaderboard.
He said: “The first few holes were quite tricky and I had to hole a very good putt for a par on the fourth to remain one over.
“But from that point for the next eight holes I was hitting really, really good shots into every hole, inside 20ft each time and maybe I didn’t hole my fair share of putts.”
The last time Moriarty played the course was 19 years ago in the British Boys.
“I vaguely remember the course from back then,” he said. “It was nice to put myself in contention on the first day and I was pleased with my performance with my mid-irons.”
O’Briain was two over after four holes but fired himself back into contention thanks to a four birdie run over nine holes with just a bogey at the par three 17th leaving him a stroke outside the leading trio.
Meanwhile birdies on two of the par fives helped take McGrane to one under par.
PGA Playoffs, Saunton East (Par 71)
69 Matt Cort (Beedles Lakes), Paul Streeter (Lincoln Golf Centre), Colm Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance)
70 Damien McGrane, Neil O’Briain (Old Conna),
71 Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre), Andrew Willey (Bullwell Forest)
72 David Higgins (Waterville)