Rosapenna's Ruaidhri McGee got his bid for a European Tour card off to a sensational start on what was a good day for Paul Dunne, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton in the opening round of the Qualifying School Final Stage in Catalonia.
The 24-year old Derry native made seven birdies in a six under 64 on the easier Tour Course, dropping just one shot to finish the day tied for fourth with the top 25 and its after six rounds awarded full European Tour cards at PGA Catalunya Resort near Girona.
As usual at Q-School, almost all the good scoring was done on the par-70 Tour Course, the shorter of the two layouts, with Australia's Nick Cullen posting a 61 to lead by two strokes from South Africa's Michael G. Palmer and Spain's Pep Angles on nine under par
McGee is in a five-way tied for fourth with the likes of Swedish amateur Marcus Kinhult, who shot an outstanding 66 on the difficult Stadium Course as Mount Juliet's Kevin Phelan had to settle for a level par 70 on the Tour Course that left him tied 68th.
The other five Irish hopefuls played at the testing, par-72 Stadium Course and it was a positive day for Dunne, McGrane and Thornton as they carded one under 71s to share 52nd place.
Open Championship hero Dunne, 22, was two over through the turn as he mixed three bogeys with one birdie. But he played well on the back nine with birdies at the 13th, 15th and 17th undoing the front nine mistakes.
Thornton also recovered well with two closing birdies at the eighth and ninth putting him in the red as McGrane played steadily all day and was left to rue a closing bogey.
It was a tougher day at the office for former Spanish Open winner Peter Lawrie and Headfort's Brian Casey as the shot 76s on the Stadium Course and share 138th on four over.
Only the leading 70 players and ties after four rounds — two on each course — qualify for the last two rounds over the Stadium Course.