Colm Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance), Neil O’Briain (Old Conna GC) and Noel Murray (Massereene) topped the leaderboard at the HBE PGA Ulster Championship Pro-Am at the Hilton Templepatrick on Tuesday.
The trio fired five under par rounds of 67 at the Co Antrim venue to finish one shot ahead of Eamonn Brady (Clontarf).
Moriarty is back to defend the title he won in dominant style last year, finishing the event on -9, a full seven shots ahead of his nearest rivals.
However, the focus over the next two days will also be on the wider battle to top the PGA in Ireland Order of Merit which has developed into a shoot-out between David Higgins (Waterville) and Brady.
The Clontarf professional currently leads the way by 589 points but, with 1,350 points on offer to the winner this week, he could yet be overtaken at the summit in this, the final qualifying event.
Brady and his amateur team, representing O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors, edged out O’Briain and his team representing Digney Grant on countback after both groups finished on 91 points.
The 36-hole event gets underway on this morning with Ciaran Molloy (Blackwood GC) and Shaun Donnelly (Castle Hume) leading the way at 8.40am.
HBE PGA Ulster Championship Pro-Am at Hilton Templepatrick GC
T1 C Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance Ltd); N O’Briain (Old Conna GC); N Murray (Massereene GC) 67
4 E Brady (Clontarf GC) 68
5 L Hynes (Killiney GC) 70
T6 M Staunton (Delgany GC); C Molloy (Blackwood GC); B McGovern (Headfort GC) 71
T9 D Mooney (Ballyliffin); D Ryan (Cahir Park) lvl