David Higgins and Damien McGrane are just one stroke behind leader Richard Wallis after opening with four-under 68s in the £25,000 PGA Play-offs at Walton Heath.
Ireland’s “Big Two” are tied for second on four-under with England’s Robert Coles as they chase four places in next year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and two places in the British Masters.
Ireland's third qualifier for the season-ending event, newly-appointed Tulfarris Golf Resort professional Simon Thornton, is tied for 17th after making four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in a level par 72.
Wallis, who played in the Great and Britain and Ireland PGA Cup side line-up that drew with the USA in 2013, outshone six members of this year’s winning team, including McGrane and Higgins.
“I scored better than I played,” Wallis said. “I tried to keep it in play but kept hitting the ball into the heather. I had a couple of lucky lies and I didn’t play particularly well.
“But it was good enough to just about keep it in play. That’s the name of the game round here. Keep it on the fairways, and you’ve got shots but land in the heather too often, and you’re in trouble.”
Higgins made four birdies in an immaculate 68 while Order of Merit winner McGrane followed his lone bogey of the day at the second with five birdies.
PGA Playoffs, Walton Heath Golf Club - Old Course (Par 72)
67 Richard Wallis (Canterbury GC)
68 David Higgins (Waterville Golf Links), Damien McGrane, Robert Coles (Maylands Golf & CC),
69 Steve Parry (NW Golf Academy/Hart Common), Paul Hendriksen (Ivybridge GC), Simon Lilly (Staverton Park GC), Gareth Wright (West Linton GC), Paul O’Hara (North Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd)
70 Gavin Hay (Grantown-on-Spey GC), Christopher Currie (Caldwell GC), Adam Keogh (Spalding GC)
71 Ryan O’Neill (Penwortham GC), Stuart Brown (Thorpe Wood Golf Course), Ashley Mansell (Clevedon GC), Matthew Fieldsend (Drayton Park GC),
72 Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort), Michael Ramsden (Renishaw Park GC),
73 Andrew Willey (Bulwell Forest GC),
74 Glen Portelli (Old Fold Manor GC),
75 Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre), Sion Bebb (Morlais Castle GC),
76 Andrew Raitt (St Georges Hill GC), Chris Rodgers (Richings Park GC).