Despite facing a cold southeast wind, the 22-year-old Tramore talent was pleased to birdie the 18th to add a level par 71 to his stunning opening 65 to lead on six-under-par from England’s Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of Ryder Cup player Matthew.
A member of the 20-man Great Britain and Ireland panel, he’s highly fancied to make next year’s Walker Cup team.
But as he may yet try for his European Tour card at the Qualifying School in September, his future is far from clear.
Whatever happens, he’s adamant he must remain focused and not dwell on the potential rewards that might come with what would be his first big individual win since the 2013 Irish Boys.
“Sure I could go out and win British Amateur, and you could be playing the Masters next year,” said Dawson who birdied the first and fifth and followed bogeys at the eighth, 14th and 15th by getting up and down for birdie from 97 yards at the last, slotting home a slick six-footer.
“You just don’t know with this game. I’m just trying to stay grounded and try and enjoy my golf and that’s it.
“The Walker Cup? It’s a hard one to call.
Whatever about the future, he’s got more than enough on his plate in Newcastle.
“You’ve just got to stay patient here,” he said. “It’s a mental test.
“You’ve really got to plot your way around here.
“It’s not a big driver’s golf course. You don’t have to overpower it. I like the way you have to think your way around.”
Fitzpatrick added a 70 to his first round 68 to be Dawson’s nearest rival on five-under.
The 19-year old from Sheffield eagled the first but then missed a string of chances, three-putting the 12th from 16 feet for par, before following bogeys at the 14th and 15th with a birdie at the 16th.
“I had putts that finished behind the hole on multiple occasions,” Fitzpatrick said. “I thought more would drop but that’s golf so I can’t really do much about it.”
Ranked 58th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, he must make the top 50 by the end of June to qualify for the US Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach and knows victory in Newcastle would make that a formality He certainly believes he’s got the perfect came to conquer Royal County Down where he watched his brother finish eighth behind Soren Kjeldsen in the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open “I walked around,” he said. “It was hammering it down.”
He’s loving it this week, however, and likes his chances on a course where positional play is key.
“I’ve got a two iron that gets three feet off the ground,” he said. “I think it does suit me. I’ve hit driver five times this week. Two iron is a pretty handy club to have.”
Castle’s Alex Gleeson triple bogeyed the tough 15th en route to a 74 that leaves him tied for third on level par with England’s Andrew Wilson.
However, title favourite Matthew Jordan from Royal Liverpool bogeyed the last four holes for a 74 to slip seven shots behind Dawson on one-over.
Portmarnock’s James Fox birdied the 16th and 17th for a solid 72 to share fifth place on one-over with West of Ireland champion and Bridgestone Order of Merit leader Rob Brazill tied 18th on three over after a 72.
Defending champion Peter O’Keeffe shot 75 but the Douglas giant sits two shots inside the projected cut mark for the top 50 and ties alongside Cairndhu’s Stephen Watts, Athenry’s Alan Hill and Balbriggan’s Robbie Cannon on four-over.
Mallow’s James Sugrue dropped eight shots in the middle of his round but a birdie at the first and two birdies in the last three holes allowed him to post a 76 that leaves him on the cut line on six-over.