Graeme Clark shot an opening-round 63 to surge to a three-stroke lead in the Buildbase Open, an 888poker.com PGA EuroPro Tour event at Frilford Heath Golf Club in Oxfordshire.
Blane Breheny (Woburn Golf Club), Matthew Evans (Rotherham Golf Club) and Iwan Griffiths (Aberdare) are tied for second on six under par after the first day of play on the par-72 Blue Course.
Clark, who finished third on the 2011 Order of Merit, is hoping to return to the Challenge Tour in 2014 but says the standard of players on the 888poker.com PGA EuroPro Tour is constantly improving.
â€œI got off to a nice start with a couple of birdies on three and five,â€ he said of his opening round. â€œI played pretty solid all day, birdied seven and eight and got a bit of luck on the par-four ninth; I hit it right on to the edge of the rough, chipped it out sideways and hit six iron to within six foot and knocked it in, which kept the momentum going. I played really well all day.
â€œI am looking forward to going out tomorrow and I am looking to carry on in the same form. I will take the same things into account and just go out and play.
â€œIt would be nice to get up to the Challenge Tour again. But there is a long way to go yet and there are some very good players out there now. The standard on the tour is improving every year but it would be nice to do it again.â€
Clarkâ€™s nine birdies and nine pars took him to 63, and would have left Breheny, Evans and Griffiths wondering how they are still three off the lead despite playing so well themselves.
Evans, another former Order of Merit top-five finisher, double bogeyed the par-five eighth but a run of five consecutive birdies prior to that helped him to sign for a 66.
Breheny started on the tenth tee and hit seven birdies in round one but dropped a shot at 12. Welshman Griffiths also broke par seven times but bogeyed the ninth, which was his final hole. Eight players are four behind Clark on five under par.
West Ham United footballer Gary Oâ€™Neil, who today revealed he is set to re-sign for the Upton Park club next week, signed for a five-over-par 77.
Spectator entry to the course is free all weekend and a two-hour highlights package will be broadcast on Sky Sports HD four times on Wednesday, July 10.