Mark Brown, Grant Moorhead and Joshua Carmichael showed the value of experience in blustery southeasterly winds to share the round one lead at the Taranaki Energy Open at the New Plymouth Golf Club yesterday.
Brown, the 2006 champion, who enjoyed a hole in one on the ninth hole on Wednesday in the pro-am, began slowly making the turn in even par before he played the tougher back nine in five under in the gusting wind to card a five under 67.
That number was matched by seasoned veteran Moorhead, the former Ngamotu professional, who gave the locals plenty of reason to cheer yesterday afternoon with three birdies in the final three holes to share the clubhouse lead.
Defending champion Carmichael, of North Harbour, eagled the 18th to make it a three-way tie for the round one lead at five under par on an exciting day in the opening Charles Tour event for 2012.
Steven Han and Auckland amateur Jonathon Ratcliffe share fourth place after rounds of three under par 69.
But the talking point was Brown in the toughest conditions. He was happy with his fast start as he returns to a course where he has had a lot of success.
"It was a good start," said the 36-year-old, former winner of the NZ PGA Order of Merit.
"We probably got the best of the weather. It wasn't too windy early on but it picked up on the back nine and that is where I did most of my scoring and played my best."
Brown had a hot stretch after the turn where he made three birdies in succession on 10, 11 and 12. He backed up that with two further birdies on 14 and 15.
"It was a good wee stretch. I obviously left a few out there like everyone would say - I missed three short birdie putts all from within six feet - so I was frustrated early on but I hung in there and had that good patch."
Playing partner Luke Toomey, who contended for the Lion Foundation New Zealand stroke play title last month, was blown away by the display of the former European Tour player.
"He could have shot something out of this world today," said the 20-year-old from the Ngaruawahia Golf Club.
"His putting was amazing and watching him on the greens was a good lesson for me.
"It is awesome to play with someone like Mark and just learn from what he does. He must have been sick of answering my questions because I pestered him all day but for me it is really cool to play with someone of his experience."
Brown, who finished tied second at the New Zealand PGA Pro-Am two weeks ago, is revitalised by his turnaround in form and confidence.
Meanwhile, there was also a three-way tie for the lead in the women's championship.
Lion Foundation New Zealand Stroke Play Champion Emily Perry had a slow start with a four over par 76 in round one to share the lead with Celeste McLean (Manaia) and 12-year-old Tyla Kingi (Opotiki).