Olivier Maire, who only became a Challenge Tour member on the eve of the Open de Cote D'Ivoire, celebrated by shooting a four-under-par 68 to lead after the first round.
The 20-year-old from Cannes and a professional for less than a year, was a morning starter and stayed ahead all day, only England's Ian Poulter getting within a shot of the young Frenchman with a 69.
Another Frenchman, the experienced Laurent Lassalle, carded a 70, while among those on 71 are Maarten Lafeber of Holland and Welshman David Park, winners of the two opening tournaments on this year's Challenge Tour and the top two in the rankings.
On a humid day when scoring was difficult, only nine players broke par but among those on level-par 72 is Scotland's Billy McColl, now 42 and a former winner of
the title. The only other previous champion in the field, fellow Scot Bill Longmuir, returned 74.1st Round Leaderboard