Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan battled through the pain barrier and made six birdies in an opening 68 at the Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain.
The Portrane talent (24) felt he might not be able to tee it up in the six-round battle to make the crucial top 25 and ties after feeling his back "go" on Friday, but he persevered to end the day tied for 56th in the 156-man field on three-under par.
Teeing it up at the Lakes Course at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, he birdied the long second to go out in one-under par before mixing three bogeys with five birdies in an eventful back nine, picking up shots at the par-five 16th and 18th.
"I somehow got through the round," Moynihan said. "Warming on the range I felt terrible. I was very sore at the start but loosened up a bit during the day as it got quite hot, which was good.
"I was hitting chippy shots all day and my driver swings were very sore, but I'm very happy. On the range, I couldn't see myself finishing the round, to be honest. It was a bit of an up and down back nine, but my wedges were good."
Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin was two-under and bogey-free with three holes to play at the Lakes but missed the green at the par-three seventh, his 16th, and made double bogey en route to a level par 71.
"I just didn't hit it close enough and a poor shot on seven cost me," said Sharvin who is tied for 115th, five strokes outside the top 25 and ties who will be awarded cards after six rounds.
"But the game's in good shape though and there's plenty of golf to be played. I was very tidy for the most part."
Tramore's Robin Dawson (22), who also played the Lakes Course, was two-under through nine holes but made four bogeys in a five-hole spell from the 11th before he birdied the par-five 16th to sign for a one-over 72 that left him tied for 123rd.
Germany's Max Schmidt and England's Daniel Gavins fired immaculate, nine-under 62s on the Lakes Course to lead by a shot from Norwegian amateur Kristoffer Reitan, who shot an eight-under 63.
“I played here two years ago at Second Stage, so I do know the Lakes Course quite well,” said Schmitt. “I started quite well today, I made par by getting up and down on the first, which was a very important one. I hit a lot of good shots, a lot of good putts and some really long putts went in today.
“I hit a lot of good shots into the green, hit it very close to the hole, so I really had to drop them.”
Despite his tender years, the 20 year old has plenty of experience in professional golf after spending the past season on the European Challenge Tour, which he will rely on with a whopping 90 holes of golf in front of him.
“It’s still a lot of golf to play,” the German said. “I’m just trying to play solid over the last five days and that’s it.
“I’ll be doing less practice after the rounds than I normally would — so just gaining energy and that’s it.
“We’ve still got a lot of golf to play and you have to be at the top of your game to play well here so I’ll just rest today and all the other days.”
For Gavins, who played on the Challenge Tour in 2014 and the European Tour in 2016, there will be no such alterations to the routine that allowed him to equal the day’s best score.
“My routine doesn’t change, it’s exactly the same for me,” the Englishman said. “Today I started pretty well with a birdie on the second hole and kind of put a few wedges pretty close early on. I drove the ball really nicely actually and the putter was really nice— I holed a lot of putts.”
The 27 year old was calm after his opening round, admitting, like Schmitt, that he does not place much emphasis on a lead with so much golf left to play.
“I had a quick look at the leaderboard but it’s not important at the minute,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go.”
Australia's Deyen Lawson, Germany's Bernd Ritthammer and Spain's David Borda posted seven-under 65s on the Hills Course to share fourth with South African Zander Lombard and England's Chris Hanson, who posted 64s at the Lakes.
Former BMW PGA champion Matteo Manassero of Italy had to settle for a two-under 70 on the Hills Course to be tied 76th in his first appearance at the Q-School.
The entire field will now switch tracks for Day Two as each of the 156 players battle to survive the 72 hole cut, which will see the top 70 and ties continue on to the final two rounds on the Lakes Course.
At the conclusion of 108 holes, the leading 25 players (and those players tied on the final qualifying place score) will be ranked according to score.
Each of these players will be eligible for membership of the EuropeanTour (category details to be confirmed) for the 2019 season and will be subject to any re-rank policy adopted by the Tournament Committee.
Players making the cut and finishing beyond 25th place will be eligible for membership of the European Tour (category details to be confirmed) for the 2019 season. Players failing to make the cut will be eligible for membership of the European Challenge Tour for the 2019 season.
European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, Lumine GC, Tarragona
Lakes Course (Par 71)
62 M Schmitt (Ger), D Gavins (Eng);
63 K Reitan* (Nor), Z Lombard (RSA);
64 C Hanson (Eng); 65 J Choi (Kor), P Peterson (USA), I Cantero (Esp), A Cañizares (Esp), J Winter (Den), N Tinning (Den).
Irish — 68 G Moynihan (Irl); 71 C Sharvin (NIr); 72 R Dawson (Irl).
Hills Course (Par 72)
65 D Lawson (Aus), B Ritthammer (Ger), D Borda (Esp);
66 J Geary (Aus), A Saddier (Fra), M Kim (Kor), A Olesen (Nor).