Despite the adverse weather conditions there was a distinctly homely feel to the first day of the Scottish Challenge, with three natives at the top of the leaderboard.
A first competitive hole in one on his maiden appearance in a professional tournament helped 19 year old Scottish amateur James Byrne to a round of 66 and the outright lead, one shot clear of his compatriots Chris Doak and Greig Hutcheon.
Sweden’s Klas Eriksson and England's Matthew Morris, in fast fading light, also shot rounds of 67 to make it a four-way tie for second place on minus four.
But the day belonged to Byrne, who has fond memories of Macdonald Cardrona Hotel Golf and Country Club, having won the Scottish Boys Stroke Play Championship there in similarly treacherous conditions last year.
And despite betraying some initial nerves with a hooked drive off the first tee, the boy from Banchory – who is in the first year of a scholarship at Arizona State University in America – subsequently belied his tender years with a flawless round of golf which saw him grab the clubhouse lead on five under par, one shot clear of fellow Scot Chris Doak.
The highlight of the youngster’s round came at the 13th, where he struck a seven iron 190 yards for his first hole in one.
Byrne said: “The wind had changed, because on the 12th it was into our faces. Then when we got onto the 13th tee, it was behind us. I was first to hit, so I didn’t know which club to use. I just hit my seven iron and hoped for the best. It landed just the other side of the bunker, but I had no idea where it had ended up. I thought it would be about five or six feet away, but then when I got onto the green my ball wasn’t there. So I had a look in the hole, and there it was.
“It was the highlight of a great day. There’s no pressure on the amateurs, so I’m just out here to enjoy it really. There’s some very good players out here – it’s all good experience for me.”
Joining Bryne in a share of the limelight was Doak, already six times a winner on his national Tartan Tour this season. Doak’s day was perhaps less dramatic than that of Byrne, but seven birdies and four bogeys helped him to a round of 67.
He said: “This has to be some of the best golf of my career. I wouldn’t say I’m finding it easy exactly, but I am swinging well at the minute. And even when I don’t make a good swing, my short game’s in good enough nick that I’m able to get up and down. I feel as if I’m swinging better this week than I have been the last few weeks. Long may it continue.”
Doak was joined on four under par by his compatriot Hutcheon, who kept the bogeys off his card, and Sweden’s Klas Eriksson, who dropped just one shot en route to his round of 67.