Ashburton's Daniel Pearce made a dream debut as a professional on the Charles Tour as he carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 for a one-shot lead in the first round of the LawnMaster Classic in Palmerston North yesterday.
Pearce, who recently won the NZPGA qualifying event in Taupo, made a hot start when he was six-under through seven holes.
From there he held on with some great saves for par midway through his back nine and then added another birdie on the par-five seventh, his 16th, in balmy morning conditions.
Pearce holds a one-stroke advantage over Te Anau professional David Klein, who opened with a 66. Hastings professional Leighton James and amateurs Harry Bateman (Royal Wellington) and Steven Kuggeleijn (Lochiel) share third place on 67.
Three-time Charles Tour winner Doug Holloway, former New Zealand amateur finalist Steven Heyes and two-time Charles Tour winner Josh Geary are all in touch after rounds of 68.
But the first day honours of the $40,000 event belonged to Pearce.
"I got off to a flier of a start," the 24-year-old said.
"I was six-under through seven and should have been seven-under through seven holes as I missed a short putt in that so it was almost the perfect start."
Pearce, who tied for 16th on his professional debut at the New Zealand Open in November, said he felt comfortable competing on the Charles Tour after a lengthy amateur career. His best results on the tour have been top-five finishes at the Harewood Open and Shirley Open. But it was his performance at Clearwater that instilled him with self-belief.
"Finishing tied 16th at the New Zealand Open last year confirmed to me that I was good enough. I was pleased to finish right up there in a good field full of Australasian pros and I feel like things have gone on from there.
"The main difference in turning pro has been the feeling of reward you get at the end. It is a great feeling playing for your living and knowing every shot counts. I am enjoying that pressure."
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