Early season golf paid off for Tramore's Robin Dawson as he headed the eight-strong Irish raiding party with an opening 68 in the South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship near Pretoria.
The Equine Business graduate (22) shot out of the gates at Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate, racing to the turn in 31 and getting to the six under with one to go before he found an awkward lie above a bunker at the 18th and racked up a closing, double-bogey six.
After finishing second in the event last year, the flame-haired Munster man was happy with his round, carrying on his decent form at the South American Amateur in Buenos Aires last month, where he was tied 12th
"I played lovely golf," said Dawson, who turned in an immaculate, five-under 31, then pencilled in two birdies and a solitary bogey before his late mistake.
"Apart from the poor drive on the 18th, I am happy enough because there's still room for improvement."
Dawson shares 17th place, four shots behind South Africa's Keaton Slatter, who bogeyed the first but then made nine birdies (including six-in-a-row from the second) in an eight-under 64 to lead by a stroke from Sweden's Ludwig Aberg and compatriots Wilco Nienaber, James du Preez and Christiaan Basson.
Kilkenny's Mark Power carded a two-under 70 on his senior international debut to share 39th with Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty as Naas' Jonathan Yates posted a 71 to share 57th on a day when 69 players broke par.
Castle's Alex Gleeson, tied fifth in Argentina in January, lies 70th after a 72 with Royal Dublin's Barry Anderson shooting 74, Mallow's James Sugrue a 76 and Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon a 78.
Sugrue did well to shoot four-over having racked up a quadruple bogey eight at his second hole of the day.
"All the lads felt they left shots out there due mainly to rustiness," said new Irish captain, John Carroll.
"With the exception of Robin and Alex, who were in Argentina a couple of weeks ago, it was the first competitive round for the other lads.
"They have put in four very good days practice with Neil Manchip and they are all looking forward to tomorrow."
South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship, Pecanwood Golf Estates (Par 72)
64 Keaton Slatter
65 James du Preez; Ludwig Aberg SWE; Wilco Nienaber; Christian Basson
66 Ryan van Velzen; Louis Albertse
67 Calum Fyfe SCO; Stals Swart; Theunie Bezuidenhout; Ruan Botha; Oliver Gillberg SWE; Matt Saulez; Gustav Andersson SWE; Edgar Catherine FRA; Nicola Gerhardsen
68 Pierre Pineau FRA; Jeremy Freiburghaus SUI; Jan-louis Nel; Martin Vorster; Matthew Hands; Loris Schuepbach SUI; Keegan Mclachlan; Robin Dawson IRL
69 Clément Charmasson FRA; Darren Howie SCO; David Mcintyre; Oliver Goldhill; Louis Moolman; Erhard Lambrechts; Jayden Schaper; Yurav Premlall; Sam Locke SCO; Steven le Roux; Otto van Buynder; Dylan Kok; Cole Stevens; Ruhan van Dijk
70 Malcolm Mitchell; David Langley GBR; Jordan Burnand; Christiaan Burke; Marco Massiceti; Haydn Driver; Euan Walker GBR; Mark Power IRL; David Nyfjall SWE; Andre van Heerden (Jnr); Albin Bergstrom SWE; Christoffer Palsson SWE; Clayton Mansfield; Andre van Dyk; Caolan Rafferty IRL; Charles Larcelet FRA; Vaughn van Deventer; Nikhil Gopal
71 Jack Gaunt ENG; Michael Kok; Brandon Gildenhuys; Luca Filippi; Caylum Boon; Dino Capazario; Hayden Griffiths; Elmo Barnard; Alexandre Lasalarie FRA; Jonathan Yates IRL; Victor Veyret FRA; Frédéric LaCroix FRA; Deon Germishuys
72 Ryan Dreyer; Antoine Sale; Loic Ettlin SUI; Carlos Laranja; Alex Gleeson IRL; Neal Woernhard SUI; Kifentse Nukeri; Gregory Mckay; Hans-Jurie Human; Paul Waring ENG; Keelan van Wyk; Rigardt Albertse; Yashas Chandra IND; Siyanda Mwandla; Christo Lamprecht Jnr; Romain Lanteri FRA
73 Sheoran Dhruv IND; Kyle Solomon; Almero Theron; Kyle de Beer; Aneurin Gounden; Tumelo Molloyi; Wendell Bossenger; Sean Lottering; Andrew Wilson ENG; Casey Jarvis
74 Guillaume Chevalier FRA; Cameron Moralee; Henk Geldenhuys; Paul Rodrigues; Karabo Mokoena; Jordan Duminy; Samual Mckenzie; Bruce Pritchard; Byron Coetzee; Nicholaus Frade; Aidan Boon; Alan Lones; Attie van Wyk; Keanu Pestana; Barry Anderson IRL; Bradley de Beer
75 Kieron van Wyk; Tyron Davidowitz; Byron Sampson; Stephan du Toit; Blain Sansom; Arno Pretorius; Chris Woollam; Maximillian Boegel GER; Ludvig Eriksson SWE
76 Titouan Berny; James Sugrue IRL; Jason Broomhead; Mandla Dlamini; Richard Maree; Dylan Underwood; Viktor Hagborg - Asp SWE; Liam Cloete; Tom Watson
77 Sebastian Terblanche; Luke Mayo; Nico du Buisson; Phillip Swanepoel; Dan Copeman
78 Darin de Smidt; Thomas Boulanger FRA; Tiarnan McLarnon IRL; Alex van Heerden; John Paterson SCO.