BEN WELCH and Barry Hume equalled the Heydon Grange course record with eight-under-par opening rounds of 64 at The Sky Sports International.
On a day of low scoring on Thursday, Welch gave himself the early cushion with an outstanding round.
The 23-year-old from Weymouth landed an eagle at the first hole, and birdies at nine, ten, 11, 13 and 14 saw him move clear.
Hume later joined him out at -8, hitting eight birdies in a faultless round from the Haggs Castle golfer.
Welch admitted afterwards: “I didn’t realise I had equalled the course record until after I had finished.
“That’s always nice but it’s not the goal you set out for. I didn’t play too well in my practice round but worked through it on the driving range and it all came good today.
“I had a tap-in eagle at the first and then hit the pin on the third – suddenly I found myself three under.
“Five birdies in six holes in the middle was where I really made my score, and it was great to finish with a birdie too.
“I just have to keep it together for the rest of the week and try to carry it on now!”
Michael Welch sits a shot behind the leaders at -7 following another impressive round, dropping just one shot and – like his namesake Ben – hitting an eagle at the first.
“It was very good but I felt I didn’t play too well,” said the Hawkstone Park golfer. “I was erratic off the tee but I put a new putter in the bag this week and it got me out of trouble.
“I’m starting to putt better but there’s plenty to improve on overall.
“There are a lot of good scores today – people are taking advantage of the great condition of the course, there is no wind too which makes things easier.”
Damian Mooney, who represents Nevada Bobs Belfast, produced a late surge to pick up four shots in the final three holes and end on -6.
That put him a shot ahead of seven players, with a further eight at -4 and nine at -3 as a total of 85 players shot par or better on the opening day.
For full scores, click the Latest Scores link to the right.