Naas’ Conor O’Rourke got off to a dream start when he opened with a four-under 68 in the First Stage Section D of the European Tour Qualifying School at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire.
The 26-year old former St Andrews Links Trophy winner made three birdies in his first seven holes, dropped two shots in the middle of his round but then birdied three of his last five holes to share third place at the end of day one.
With around 20 players set to progress to next month’s second stage, O’Rourke is just two strokes adrift of England’s Charlie Ford, who opened with a 66 to lead by a shot from compatriot Neil Chaundhuri on six-under.
But while it was a great day for O’Rourke, it was a challenging one for the other seven Irish in the field with none of them breaking par on a day when the top 20 and ties are one-under or better.
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy shares 37th after a one-over 73 with Knock’s Colin Fairweather posting a 74 to share 49th with former British Amateur and European Amateur champion Brian McElhinney.
Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney is tied 61st after a three-over 75 with Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan a shot further back alongside Chris Selfridge in 68th after a 76 featuring three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey five at the 182-yard 11th.
The Island’s Kevin LeBlanc is tied 95th after an 80.
There are no Irish in action at Bogogno Golf Club, northwest of Milan in Italy, where 30 players broke par, headed by Germany’s Dominik Pietzsch with a seven-under-par 65
- T3 O’ROURKE, Conor -4 68
- T37 MCELROY, Dermot +1 73
- T49 FAIRWEATHER, Colin +2 74
- T49 MCELHINNEY, Brian +2 74
- T61 KEARNEY, Niall +3 75
- T68 GREHAN, Stuart +4 76
- T68 SELFRIDGE, Chris +4 76
- T95 LE BLANC, Kevin +8 80