On the notoriously tricky layout at Dehli Golf Club, the 38-year-old Stirling man carded a two-under-par 70 to end the opening day sitting just outside the top 20 as American Daniel Im set a hot pace on 65.
Out in one-over after dropping back-to-back shots at the eight and ninth, Lee transformed his round by picking up three birdies in four holes from the 12th on a flawless inward journey.
“That was a new one for me as I chose not to take the driver out of the bag at all,” he said of the unusual occurrence in professional golf. “I didn’t hit it that great on my front nine but holed a couple of putts to keep the momentum going. I then started to hit some better shots on my back nine and holed three good putts, the closest of which was from 10 feet, for my birdies.”
Scott Jamieson was the next best of the Scots with a 73, which included a 6 to finish after he’d birdied the 17th. Playing in the same group, Andrew McArthur and Jamie McLeary struggled to 75 and 78 respectively, the former’s effort being matched by Marc Warren after a birdie-birdie finish that only partly repaired his 40 going out.
Im, the world No 316, set the pace by carding the lowest score to par since the event was first co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour last season. The effort earned him a one-shot lead over Spanish pair Jorge Campillo and Nacho Elvira as well as Thailand’s Prom Meesawat.
“There were a couple of times where I almost walked away with a bogey but I made the up-and-down,” said Im of his flawless effort. “I managed stay cool.
“I’ve heard about this golf course so many times prior to this trip, so I came in with a bit of respect. I showed some respect and got some respect back.”
Jack Doherty’s level-par 72 was the best effort from the five Scots taking part in the Barclays Kenya Open - the opening event on the 2016 Challenge Tour - in Nairobi.
As German Moritz Lampert blazed the trail with a 66 at Karen Country Club, Doherty mixed three birdies with three bogeys to sit just outside the top 50.
“I played pretty solid and it’s nice to get the season up and running,” said the big Ayrshireman.
“This is a tricky golf course and requires a lot of patience as the ball flys a long way over here.
“Also, as the greens are becoming harder and faster, you really need to get your course management spot.
“I’ve done some good work over the winter, so I’m looking forward to the season ahead.”
Both two-under at one point, Paul Shields and David Law each dropped shots late in their rounds for 73 and 74 respectively.
Understandably, Shields wasn’t too downhearted as he reflected on his debut effort on the second-tier circuit.
“I’m disappointed about the way I finished, but I played really nicely so I’m looking forward to the challenge tomorrow,” he said.
Law dropped three shots in six holes on a “tough stretch” on the front nine but shared his compatriot’s overall assessment of the day.
“Tere was plenty good stuff in there to make me look forward to tomorrow,” insisted the two-time Scottish Amateur champion at the start of his third full season on the Challenge Tour.
In his first competitive round for more than four months, Chris Doak also signed for a 74, two better than Scott Henry as he made a slow start to the new campaign.