Roberto Lupini set the early benchmark at seven-under-par 65, and the former Sunshine Tour campaigner shares the first round lead with Kempton Park amateur Ruhan van Dijk, who matched his target in the 15th event of the IGT Challenge Tour Race to Q-School Series at Killarney Country Club on Monday.
Lupini dropped successive shots at six and seven and a further drop at 11 nullified the trio of birdies he made in the first four holes. However, an eagle at the par-five fifth and birdies at 15, 16 and 17 saw the 34-year-old Country Club Johannesburg golfer surge the top of the pile.
Van Dijk - who drives and putts right-handed, but chips left-handed - also opened his account with a birdie, but he lost the advantage with a soft bogey at three.
'I hit my driver left and had to punch out low beneath the trees,' said the 21-year-old. 'I chipped from about three metres short of the green but the par putt pulled up just short of the cup. 'I made two solid birdies at five and seven, though, and kept the card clean on the back nine.'
Like Lupini, Van Dijk birdied 15, 16 and 18 to grab a share of the lead.
'I've been in this position before on the amateur circuit,' said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player. 'It's just a question of staying in the moment out there and not allowing the guys breathing down your neck to break your focus on your own game.'
Lupini and Van Dijk are both heading to the Sunshine Tour's Qualifying School in March.
Both golfers hope to skip First Stage by finishing in the top 10 spot in the Race to Q-School Order of Merit at the end of the 18-event series.
Lupini went under the knife for shoulder surgery in September last year and took a huge step towards reviving his career when he cruised to a five-shot victory in the IGT Challenge Tour's Pecanwood Challenge in his first competitive start last May. He reeled in another victory in the Woodhill Challenge in August and a run of strong finishes has lifted him to sixth in the standings.
Van Dijk is well back, at 34th, and a victory would significantly boost his changes to crack the top 10, but he's perfectly happy to go through both stages of golf's most gruelling test.
'I completed a Higher Certificate in Life Science through UNISA after matric and then I started a BSc degree in Genetics and Plants,' he said. 'I'm in my second year, also through UNISA, so if I'm successful and I make it at Q-School, I intend to keep on studying. I like the balance it gives me in my life and I want to finish my degree. If I don't make it, there is always next year.'
The leading pair have a one-shot advantage over Bryce Myburgh and Kyle Lucas and will start the second round two shots ahead of Italian Philip Geerts and Hendrikus Stoop.
First Round Scores
65 - Roberto Lupini, Ruhan van Dijk AMA
66 - Bryce Myburgh, Kyle Lucas
67 - Philip Geerts (ITA), Hendrikus Stoop
68 - Jade Buitendag, Eric Nel, Neal Herman, Angus Ellis-Cole AMA
69 - Matt Bright, Juan Langeveld
70 - Gianni Pera AMA, Jason Roets, Jack Duthie, Leon Visser, Tokkie van den Berg
71 - Evance Vukeya, Leon Vorster AMA, Quintin Crause, John Bele, Bennie van der Merwe, Arno Pretorius AMA, Mark James (ENG), Clinton Grobler, Steven Lecuyer (CAN)
72 - Divan Marais, Norman Beggs, Michael Dreyer, James Pennington (SWA), Paul de Beer, Paul Rodrigues AMA
73 - Ruan Korb, Paul Boshoff, NJ van der Walt AMA, Stephan Erasmus, Carlo Heunis AMA, Peetie van der Merwe, Louis Botha, Andi Dill, Wayne Stroebel
74 - Gary Jutzen AMA, Albert Visser, David Mofokeng (LSO), Eric Park (KOR), Michael Schutz, Axel Arinbjarnarson (SWE), Jaco van der Merwe AMA, Tiaan Diederiks
75 - WM Coetzee AMA, Liam Clinton AMA, Ruben Labuschagne, Juran Dreyer AMA, Allan Jirek AMA (CZ), Conway Kunneke, David Rebelo AMA, Basil Wright, Werner van Wyk, Bryce McCabe, Thabi Ngcobo, Stephan de Beer
76 - Matthew Rossouw AMA, Jens Hillerman AMA, Ryan Woolley AMA, Aneel Kallan AMA, Keanu Pestana AMA, Mpho Mafishe, Jay Dean Fourie
77 - Matthew Hands AMA, Michael Pfeifer AMA, Wayne du Toit, Dylan Morton AMA, Shaun van Tonder
78 - Nqobani Ndabambi, Daniel Joubert, Marcus Smal AMA, Brandon Lydon AMA
79 - Jonathan Kotzen AMA, Jason Ackerman AMA, Duan Nagel AMA, Zabastian de Jager, Adam Baker, Matthew Vogel, Andrej Skrbinsek AMA
80 - Tristan Brice AMA, Bradley van Biljon, Jancarel Rossouw AMA, Alwyn Smith AMA, Werner Lourens
81 - Matthew Kiewitz AMA, Christian Larsson (SWE)
83 - Trevor Barnes AMA
84 - Mohammed Ismail AMA
89 - Adam Cooper
90 - Thabang Tlou