2012 Paul Lawrie Invitational winner Greg McBain signalled his intent to take this year’s title with a six-under-par 64 at Deeside yesterday.
The 30-year-old, who plays out of the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, leads Englishman Jonathan Lomas by two strokes following the opening day’s play in benign conditions.
McBain’s round was bookended by dropped shots at the first and last but included eight birdies, five of which came within the space of seven holes around the turn.
The Aberdonian was delighted with his first round, the highlight of which came at the seventh when he chipped in for birdie from the edge of the green.
He said: “There were chances to score and I am pleased I took advantage.
“I have fond memories of this competition from winning it two years ago. I think it is one of the best tournaments we have on the Tartan Tour and the course seems to suit my game.
“I played here when I was a junior so I know it better than most of those who are playing, which helps.”
McBain is set to return to the course at 11.11am this morning.
2013 champion David Law is playing the Kazakhstan Open this week, while the Tartan Tour’s form man Greig Hutcheon, who has won seven of the 10 previous competitions, is making the step up to the European Tour with an invite to the Wales Open.
But a strong leaderboard has emerged after the opening day’s play with 14 players under par.
Among them was Nairn Dunbar’s Gavin Hay whose three-under-par round of 67 was good enough for third place.
The 23-year-old has already enjoyed a productive 2014, winning the Scottish Young Professional of the Year title.
He said: “I lost a ball bizarrely on the eighth. It was in the light rough but we couldn’t find it.
“I took a double bogey there but I recovered well after that and had a strong back nine.
“I am pleased with the round as I have only played this course once before.
“If you keep the ball on the fairway you will get plenty of birdie chances so hopefully I can keep it going in the next round.”
Portpatrick Dunskey’s Christopher Robinson, Dunblane’s Chris Kelly, Daniel Flannery (Caldwell), Paul Wardell (Whitekirk) and Robert Arnott (Bishopbriggs) all made solid starts to the £40,000 event with two-under-par 68s.
The leading 30 and ties after 36 holes will progress to Thursday’s final round. The second round commences at Deeside at 8.15am this morning