American Dick Mast fired a four under par 68 to set the pace in the opening round of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School First Stage at Pestana Golf Resort on Portugal’s Algarve.
The 60 year old, who was third in The 2006 Senior Open Championship at Turnberry, is three shots clear of Englishman Matt Briggs and Frenchman Juani Delgado at Pestana’s Gramacho course.
Starting on the tenth tee, Mast birdied the 11th, 12th and 18th holes before the turn, then picked up another shot on the third hole. He dropped his only shot of the day on the fourth before another birdie on the sixth put him in pole position to progress to next week’s Final Stage at Pestana’s Vale da Pinta course.
A total of 157 players are competing across three courses in the 36 hole qualifier, with 59 places available in Final Stage alongside 13 exempt players.
At Silves, former US Open runner-up Mike Donald is in a four-way tie for the lead on three under par 69, along with Englishman Mike Gallagher, Canadian Jean Laforce and Archie Takamatsu of Japan.
Another Japanese player, Seiki Okuda, is two strokes back on one under par in a share of fifth position with Englishman Nick Mitchell.
At Pestana Vila Sol Golf, Australian Tim Elliott is the pacesetter after a level par opening round 72. He is one shot clear of Argentinian Miguel Guzman and Englishman Paul Wesselingh.
The top six players at Final Stage will earn full Senior Tour cards for the 2012 season and those finishing seventh to 14th will secure conditional playing rights.