Paul Curry, for 18 years a stalwart of the European Tour until back problems shattered his attendance record and he lost his card in 1997, helped set the pace with a course record 65 in the 72 hole £50,000 Formby Hall Challenge.
Curry, who won once on the European circuit, intends to try for his US Tour card later this year "just for the new challenge".
Meanwhile the 38-years-old Englishman is sharpening his competitive teeth in this event in Lancashire which is co-sanctioned by both the Mastercard and Challenge Tours and which has attracted the likes of Justin Rose (71), Gordon Sherry (71) and Challenge Tour Order of Merit leader Carl Suneson who had a 68.
And after a six birdie, one eagle, one bogey opening round Curry is in pole position alongside Essex's Robert Coles who had nine birdies and two bogeys in his 65.
"I feel like I've lost the last couple of seasons through injury so it's really good to be back in the frame and swinging well again. I've talked it over with the family - I've two young children - and we're all eager to try our luck in the USA if I can manage to pick up a card, " said Curry.
But after a day of low scoring thanks to benign conditions on this immaculate, new course the joint leaders know there is a posse of players close behind and eager to close on the £8,000 first prize. Scotland's Alister Forsyth, who is currently second on the Mastercard Merit Table, and fellow countryman Greig Hutcheon who finished top Scot in last week's PGA Championship at Gleneagles are on 66 with five players just a stroke further back.
Said Hutcheon: "I'm still on a high from last week. I'm currently 39th on the Challenge Tour so I'm in with a chance of a high finish to get my card for 2,000 if I do well here." The top 15 on the Challenge circuit receive playing rights to the European Tour.
FORMBY HALL CHALLENGE (leading scores) :
65 (-7) P.Curry (Colne Valley), R.Coles (Maylands);
66 A.Forsyth (Ralston), G.Hutcheon (unatt);
67 E.Little (unatt), E.Boult (unatt), S.Kahn (Toot Hill), S.Wakefield (Trentham Park), F.Howley (unatt);
68 R.Dee (Orsett), S.Alker (unatt), F.Cupillard (unatt), D.Russell (unatt), J.Metcalfe (Boldon), B.Dredge (unatt), P.Archer (Birchwood), M.Blackey (unatt), D.Parris (North Foreland), D.Jones (unatt), C.Suneson (Spain), R.Sailor (Ger.)