Scott Fernandez shot a six under par 65 to move into contention at the halfway stage of the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts.
The Spaniard produced one of the performances of the day at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club, making four birdies and an outstanding hole-out eagle to sign for a bogey-free second round.
Fernandez, who is eight under par overall, trails Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg by two shots and overnight leader Richard James by one shot.
Although born in Granada, the 24 year old says he is proud of his Scottish lineage – his great-grandmother hailing from Glasgow.
“It would definitely mean more to win here,” he said. “My great-grandmother was from Glasgow so I consider myself a quarter Scottish. I’m not sure who was responsible for naming me Scott, but my mum said it is because of the Scottish side of me.
“I played really well today. When I hit my second shot on the 14th I felt that it was going in all the way, and to do it from 107 yards was a great feeling as I hadn’t made an eagle like that in some time.
“My Dad and a couple of my friends are here supporting me too, they like it over here as it’s too hot in Spain right now, so to produce that in front of them was also a great feeling.
“My best finish this year was fourth in the Czech Republic and I am really happy with how I’m progressing after the work I’ve been putting in. I have learnt a lot from last year, which was my first year on the Challenge Tour, and I feel like I’m starting to see results.”
This year sees Fernandez make his second appearance in Aviemore. The son of a ski instructor, the young Spaniard was a national skiing champion in his youth – and admits he feels right at home in the Scottish Highlands.
“I like it here,” he said. “You go down town and there are all the ski shops. I came here last year, it wasn’t quite as good as this year, but that experience is making a big difference now that I know the course more.
“I ski for fun in the off season but just in good conditions, so I’m not going to risk anything this week.”
Joining Fernandez on eight under is five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey, while Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan, England's Richard McEvoy and Spain’s Pedro Oriol are a shot further back on seven under.
Switzerland’s Marco Iten carded the round of the day, making nine birdies en route to a 63 – but it was Jamie Abbott who hit the shot of the day.
The Englishman struck a stunning tee shot on the par three sixth, making an ace from 193 yards with a five iron.
“I’ve only had a hole-in-one a couple of times, but it was especially nice to do it at this event which I love,” he said.
“It kick-started the round a little bit as well. I made a few more birdies after that, so that was nice. It cheers you up a little bit if you’re having a bit of an average day.
“I love coming here. This is the fourth time I’ve been here and I love the place and the golf course. The people are friendly and it’s just a great place to play.”
Abbott’s eagle helped push the 29 year old towards a five under par 66, but after an opening round of 78, he narrowly missed the cut which fell at one over par.