Derek Gillespie carded a 6-under 66 in round one and was joined in a share of second place by Byron Smith and Benjamin Hayes. Antonio Serna, Bret Guetz and Eugene Smith are one stroke further back at minus-5 at El Cid Golf & Country Club.
Hawley started on the back nine and posted four birdies in a six-hole stretch from the 13th.
Around the turn, he moved to minus-5 with a birdie on the par-5 second. After tripping to a bogey on the par-3 fourth, Hawley ran off three straight birdies from the sixth to jump into the lead at 7 under.
Gillespie posted six birdies, two bogeys and an eagle for his share of second. Smith and fellow American Hayes each carded bogey-free rounds with six birdies to join Gillespie in second place.
Luke Hickmott posted a 4-under-par 68 Thursday. He was joined by Adam Short, Jason Hartwick, Kevin Pom Arleau, Kevin Kim, Antonio Maldonado, Jens Nilsson, Alejandro Villavicencio and Greg Wells in a share of eighth place.
Scott Gibson, who tied for second place at the season-opening San Jose International Open, is one of 11 players one stroke further back at minus-3.