Paul Shields upstaged his more experienced compatriots to sit as leading Scot after the second round of the European Tour Qualifying School final at PGA Catalunya, near Girona.
The 24-year-old Kirkhill player followed up his opening 67 on the Tour Course with a two-under 70 on the Stadium layout to sit joint-19th on five-under-par in the six-round marathon in north-east Spain.
Shields, a two-times Scottish Boys’ finalist, posted five birdies as he maintained the form that saw him sign off with a 64 to finish joint-third in his second-stage event at Lumine Golf.
“It was a goal of mine to make the final and give a good account of myself,” said Shields, one of the players trying to come through all three phases in the marathon card scramble.
Bidding to secure one of the 25 main Tour berths up for grabs, Shields has used the PGA EuroPro Tour to toughen himself up for this gruelling test.
He finished 22nd on the third-tier circuit’s money-list this year, helped by securing second spot in the Paul Lawrie Foundation Granite City Classic at Newmachar.
“I’m looking forward to the next couple of days and hopefully I can maintain my form,” he added of his first target being to make the 72-hole cut,
Level with Shields at the start of the day, David Law slipped 17 spots to joint-36th after a level-par 72 on the Stadium Course
Shields’ conqueror in the 2009 Scottish Boys’ final at Royal Aberdeen, Law offset two birdies with two bogeys as the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre player had another uneventful day.
In contrast, it was another roller-coaster ride for Scott Henry as the 28-year-old signed for a one-under 69 on the Tour Course to sit in a share of 50th on two-under.
Henry, who narrowly missed out on graduating from the Challenge Tour, has bagged an eagle and ten birdies so far but his two scorecards have also been littered with dropped shots.
Also on two-under is Ross Kellett, who catapulted himself up the leaderboard with a five-under 65 - a 10-shot improvement on day one - on the Tour layout.
“I played very solid today, hitting lots of greens in regulation, which was nice,” said the Motherwell man after signing for seven birdies, including three in his last four holes.
Kellett, who fell three shots short of making the final two rounds 12 months ago, added: “There’s lots of golf still to play, but I’m enjoying the challenge so far.”
Out in three-under 32, Bradley Neil stumbled a bit coming home as the Blairgowrie player signed for a matching score on the same course to sit on level-par alongside Jack Doherty (73).
“I Was delighted to fight back in round one and give myself a decent score on the tougher of the two courses but today was the opposite,” said Neil, last year’s Amateur champion.
“I got off to a good start and didn’t capitalise. I think level-par is probably fair after two rounds. I just need to do the simple things well and hopefully move up the leaderboard each day.”
Also playing on the Tour track, Peter Whiteford and George Murray both returned 70s to sit on two-over and four-over respectively, the latter having been four-under with four to play before undoing that good work in the space of two holes.
Sharing the lead on ten-under 132 are Italian Filippo Bergamaschi and Austrian Lukas Nemecz after they posted matching 65s on the Tour Course to sit one ahead of Swedish amateur Marcus Kinhult and Chris Hanson from England.
On a day when overnight leader Nick Cullen slipped to fifth following a 73 - 12 shots more than the Australian’s opening salvo - Francesco Molinari and Ruaidhri McGhee also undid promising starts.
Molinari, winner of both the Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship as the Italian secured a Ryder Cup debut, fell to joint-95th after a 77 while Irishman McGhee plummeted 150 spots to second last following an error-strewn 87.