Ciaran Molloy from Ardee came in with a late round of 64 on the Valley course at Royal Portrush to lead qualifying after the first round of the Magners North of Ireland Amateur Open.
Molloy took advantage of great scoring conditions on the north coast with his six under round.
As usual scoring was better on the Valley course than on the Dunluce where Royal Portrush’s Matthew McAlpin shot the lowest score of the day with his 69.
Cairndhu’s Ryan McKinstry came in with a 70 behind McAlpin with Warrenpoint’s Stephen Coulter one shot further back.
George Thacker from Kedleston and Richard O’Donovan from Lucan both returned rounds of 65 behind Molloy on the Valley course.
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy is in good shape going into today’s second and final qualifying round after an opening 67, also on the Valley course.
Reeve Whitson from Mourne, who finished as leading amateur at the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle last month, came in with a 68 on the Valley as did Banbridge’s Rory Leonard and reigning Ulster Boys champion John Ross Galbraith from Whitehead.
Dunmurry’s Stephen Crowe is well placed after a 69 on the Valley a score matched by Moyola Parl’s Luke Lennox and Knock’s Michael Sinclair.
Rathmore’s Wayne Telford opened with a round of 70 on the Valley course, the same score as Knock’s Nicky Grant.
The top 64 players after today’s second qualifying round will go through to the match play stages starting tomorrow.
Gary McDowell will have his work cut out if he is to progress further.
The Rathmore man, brother of former US Open champion Graeme, struggled to an opening 78 yesterday.
Dunmurry’s Darren Crowe opened with a solid round of 71, as did Belvoir Park’s Barry Cashman.
Donaghadee’s Garth Boyd will need to record a sub-par round if he is to make it through to the knockout stage after a disappointing opening 73 on the Dunluce course.