Both opened with seven-under-par 65s, one shot shy of the Swan-e-set Bay Resort course record. Iain Steel finished alone in third place with a six- under 66, while Zoltan Veress, Jamie Welder, Stuart Anderson, Mike Grob, Michael Kirk and Chris Locker were together at minus-five.
Frustrated with his game, Brown has stayed in his native New Zealand for most of this year. After a three-month hiatus during which he barely played any competitive golf, Brown made his 2002 Canadian Tour debut two weeks ago at the Ontario Open Heritage Classic, shooting 81-80 and missing the cut. But he bounced back in a big way Thursday, posting a four-under 32 on his front nine.
'I don't know where that round came from, I have been playing awful,' conceded Brown. 'I took the time off because, to be honest, I was sick of the way I was playing and was sick of the grind. Staying at home helped me mentally, and maybe this will be the start I need.'
Brown, an early starter in round one, managed his 65 despite a constant downpour that lasted until just after noon. Conditions turned out to be nearly ideal for those playing in the afternoon.
Duke, who captured the Canadian Tour's 1999 Order of Merit title thanks to a pair of victories that year, birdied four of his first five holes Thursday, starting with a 25-foot putt on the opening hole.
'I got off to a good start, and got to the point where I felt I could make anything,' said Duke. 'I think we got the good side of the draw today, but that is the way it goes. I've been on both the good and bad side this year, and there is nothing you can do about it. That's golf.'
Veress, the Canadian Tour's Rookie of the Year in 2000, also took advantage of the afternoon conditions to climb to within two shots of the lead.
'There was no wind out for us, it was like shooting darts out there,' said Veress. 'You have to hit fairways on this course, or else you can get yourself in a lot of trouble. It was a good start, and I hope I can build on it.'
Defending champion Steve Scott finished 10 strokes back after shooting a three-over 75.