Making his Tour debut a week after earning his playing card at Winter Qualifying School, the 25-year-old Californian carded a 3-under 67 at Barton Creek Resorts Crenshaw Cliffside course, a pair of shots better than Steve Schneiter, Ben Bunny and Dong Yi.
The top four players, who are the only competitors under par after the first round, all opened at the par-70 Crenshaw track, while 2004 earnings leader Erik Compton of Miami, Fla. and Canadians Jim Rutledge and Scott Hawley were even-par at the par-72 Fazio layout to leave them just three shots off the lead.
Scott Gibson, Jaime Gomez, Luke Sestero, John Mallinger and Jon Turcott carded an even-par 70 at Crenshaw.
British Columbians Philip Jonas and Dan Swanson are tied for 13th with three others at 1 over. David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., who is in the midst of his rookie season on the PGA Tour, fired a 4-over 76.
Beard, a two-time NCAA All-American at Pepperdine University, held status on the Nationwide Tour in 2004.
Players will switch courses for Sundays second round before the professional tournament is reduced to the low 60 scores plus ties. The low 15 amateur teams will also be around to play on Monday and Tuesday.
Ryan Longwell of the NFLs Green Bay Packers, playing this week on a sponsors exemption, struggled to an 89 on the Crenshaw course, while former NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver posted a 12-over 84 over on Fazio.
Barton Creek will also play host to the Barton Creek Austin Canadian Tour Challenge March 17-20 to wrap up the two-event swing through the Lone Star State.