Stewart returned a nine under par 63 at Portlethen which sees him go into his second round at Murcar Links two shots ahead of Leven Thistle’s Scott Crichton, Irvine’s Stuart Easton and local Portlethen member Ben Murray.
Kirkcudbright’s Cameron Gray, Blairgowrie’s Cormac Sharpe and Ross Laird from Glenbervie all carded six under par rounds of 66 at Portlethen while defending champion
George Burns, Murrayfield’s Andrew Ni, Kirkcudbright’s William Squires, Dunnikier Park’s Liam Duncan and Portlethen’s Graham Innes all scored rounds of 67 on the same course.
Stewart started his round with three straight birdies but it was on the back nine that he came into his own. He birdied the 11th and then fired four more in succession from the 13th before holing out from 12 feet for an eagle on the last to set a new Portlethen course record.
“To be honest I didn’t even realise I was that many under par,” said the first round leader. “When you are entering your score on an App you don’t pay attention to it. It was only when someone told me that I realised what I’d shot.
“I’m happy. I still don’t really believe it. It was brilliant out there. I really enjoyed it.”
Stewart was not the only competitor who will remember their first round for quite some time to come. Playing partners Murray and Crichton also had a day they will never forget after posting their 65s in perfect conditions and then admitting they had fed off each other all the way round.
Nor were they alone because their other playing partner Duncan contributed a 67 meaning their three-ball was a cumulative 19 under par for the round.
“It was brilliant,” said Murray. “We kind of fed off each other out there. We were pretty solid from the get-go. I was a bit more aggressive. Scott was a little more conservative which just goes to show there’s more than one way to play this course. It was great fun all the way round.”
“Playing with a local member today definitely helped,” said Crichton. “There were a couple of lines off the tee I wasn’t sure about but I watched Ben and then was able to commit to the club I was using. It was a pretty good round of golf for us and it wasn’t bad for Liam either. He shot five under so we definitely got each other going.”
The best scores of the day at Murcar Links came from Kilmacolm’s Matthew Clark, Castle Park’s Connor Wilson and Thornhill’s Taylor Kerr who all carded rounds of 67 over the par-71 links to join the group on four under which also includes Royal Troon’s Michael Smyth, Matthew Wilson from Forres and Scott Mccandless from Bathgate.
All competitors switch courses for the second round of match play with the top-64 qualifying for the subsequent match play competition.