Hearns happy to launch his bid by equalling Valley Links record
Niall Hearns (Mountrath) carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 64 to top the leaderboard on the opening day of qualifying at the North of Ireland Championship.
The 19-year-old from Co Laois had four birdies and an albatross two on the par-five 16th on his way to equalling the Valley Links course record at Royal Portrush.
"This is my best ever round in a Championship," he said. "I'm pleased with my debut here."
Cairndhu's Marc McKinstry leads the Ulster challenge one shot back with TJ Ford (Co Sligo) and Robert Moran (Castle).
The leading score on The Dunluce course was 2011 winner Patrick McCrudden, who had a four-under-par 68 to tie for sixth.
Two rounds of strokeplay qualifying will determine the 64 that make it through to the knockouts, which begin tomorrow.
• The Women's and Girls' Inter-provincials get under way at Castledargan GC today, with Ulster attempting to end the recent dominance of Leinster.