Steven Brown claimed pole position after the first day of the Hainan Open by signing for a bogey-free 66 to lead by one in China.
The Englishman thrived during his first appearance at Sanya Luhuitou Golf Club, carding six birdies during a blemish first round on Hainan Island.
The 30 year old, who currently sits in seventh place in the Road to Oman Rankings, is firmly in contention for a European Tour card which are awarded to the top 15 at the end of the Challenge Tour season.
Having finished in the top ten in his last three starts Brown is happy with his game – and believes he can carry on his impressive scoring over the next three days.
“I have had a really good season and I want to have a strong finish,” he said. “I had a two-week break before this week so it was really pleasing today to carry on where I left off.
“It is a really nice golf course and today we had good weather so the course was playing well – it was amazing how dry it was after all the rain we had earlier in the week.
“It was my first time playing here and I really enjoyed it. Teeing off it hit me how hot it was but I managed to get off to a steady start.
“I got going at the 16th, my seventh hole of the day, when I holed a nice birdie putt from 15 feet then it was the middle of the round where I played my best golf.
“I made five birdies in six holes and that was where I made my score today – it was really pleasing to stay bogey-free as there is a lot of water here that you can easily hit if you’re not careful from the tee.
“Overall I have made a great start but there is still a long way to go – let’s see what the rest of the week brings.”
One adrift of Brown on five under par is a cluster of five players, including Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan.
The Irishman, who finished tied 47th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour last week, continued the good form that has taken him to 30th place on the Road to Oman this season.
The most impressive performance of the day arguably came from Chinese amateur Li Linqiang who is three shots back after a 69 – despite only being 13 years old.
Born and raised in Haikou on Hainan Island, the home favourite was granted a wildcard into this week’s tournament after he won the Hainan Junior Tour Final by finishing 18 under par in the three-round event.
“I really worked hard today,” he said. “Golf is my passion and my one true calling in life. I have played on the China Tour three times before but this week definitely feels like a higher stage.
“I felt quite nervous at the beginning, but as the round went on I started to feel comfortable and played my game.
“It is very exciting being so high up the leaderboard but I am confident that I can do even better tomorrow – I am going to try and step on the gas!”