Playing in the afternoon field, McLeod fired an 8-under 63 on the Tina Golf Course layout to give himself a two shot lead.
The 22-year-old Queenslander's round was highlighted by back-to-back eagles on the par-5 14th and par-4 15th.
"I teed off the back-9 and I was square through three holes. Then I eagled holes 14 and 15, I have never done that before, so that kicked it off," said McLeod.
"This is definitely up there, I have had a couple of good runs but this is up there with the best rounds I've had as a Pro for sure."
This is McLeod's second trip to New Caledonia after he played in the tournament last year as an amateur.
Inside the top-10 after 54 holes, McLeod went on to finish tied 23rd learning a valuable lesson in the process.
"I played last year as an amateur and really enjoyed myself. I played pretty well except for the last round. I really learnt from that and hopefully it can help me this week," add McLeod.
"I feel pretty well prepared but it's only the first round. I would probably be more nervous if it was the third round."
"I just need to go about my business, do my routines and not get ahead of myself."
Handling his top spot with aplomb, McLeod just wants to post a good result at the South Pacific Open Championship to keep moving up the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia towards the safety of a 2017 Tour card.
"It would be good to play nicely this week. Make some good money would help me to keep my card and take some of the pressure off the big tournaments at the end of the year."
Also looking to secure his future in New Caledonia is a player at the other end of his career.
Seasoned Tour Pro Jason Norris fired 6-under the card today to be outright second behind McLeod.
A good result this week is necessary for Norris to earn a place in some of the summer of golf's biggest tournaments including the Australian PGA Championship.
"I would love to win; I need to win to get exemptions into tournaments for the rest of the year," said Norris.
"I probably won't get into the Australian PGA Championship so I desperately need to win."
"But I can't think about that right now. There is a lot of golf to come and a lot of good players here. I could play well for the rest of the week and finish third, you just never know in golf."
At 4-under the card and rounding out the top-5 after the first round are Benjamin Clementson (NSW), Adam Blyth (QLD), Pieter Zwart (NZ), Andrew Evans (NSW) and Matthew Giles (NSW).
The second round of the South Pacific Open Championship will tee off at 6:40am with Jake McLeod on course at 7:16amThe South Pacific Open Championship teed off on Wednesday 21 September with the champion to be decided on Saturday 24 September. Played for $140,000 the South Pacific Open Championship also attracts Official World Golf Ranking points.
Headlines at a glance
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- Jeffress and Lawson in winning form 29.09.2016
- Hend heads back to Asia 28.09.2016
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