NELSON, New Zealand (April 25, 2014) -- The top qualifiers have been sent packing on a day one of the New Zealand Amateur Championship at the Nelson Golf Club.
Local hope Blair Riordan, who won the two round qualifying event by an impressive six shots, was humbled in round one by Waikato golfer Nick Coxon on the 21st hole on a day where four of the top five seeds were knocked out.
Coxon, who was one of the 12 players who had to return to the course first thing this morning for a playoff to make the 32, silenced the parochial Tasman crowd with his come from behind win.
“It was an awesome win for me,” said the 18-year-old from the Riverside Golf Club.
“Blair has been playing great and I didn’t go into the match with too many expectations. I had just come from the playoff so it was a pretty fast turnaround.
“It was pretty tense with all the people supporting him but I played great and managed to force extra holes and then hung on for the win. I was pretty relieved.”
Riordan was not alone in bowing out. The No.2 seed Compton Pikari was also defeated by 2011 New Zealand Amateur finalist Steven Heyes by 3 and 1.
In fact Auckland golfer Tae Koh was the only player from the top five seeds to stay alive after the opening two rounds after Marc Jennings (4) and Jason Gulasekharam (5) also lost their round one matches.
The No.3 seed Koh, who is looking to become the first golfer to win the Australian Amateur and New Zealand Amateur titles in the same year, defeated Charlie Hillier (1up) before overcoming Denzel Ieremia (2 and 1).
The 19-year-old from the Manukau Golf Club, who finished runner-up in the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship, has come of age in 2014 and is among the favourites to make the championship final on Sunday.
Alongside Koh, two of the biggest names left in the draw are Vaughan McCall and Joshua Munn.
McCall, who claimed the title in 2012, defeated Wellington No.1 Marc Jennings 3 and 2 this morning and then cruised home to beat Cameron Grant by 4 and 3.
Munn has also been in dominant form with 6 and 5 and 4 and 3 wins as he looks to turn around a poor record in the New Zealand Amateur.
Meanwhile Kadin Neho, the defending New Zealand Amateur Champion, found his mojo on the opening day of the match play championship.
The 18-year-old from the Whangarei Golf Club, who last year became the first golfer from Northland to win the title in 120 years, delivered a clutch win over New Zealand Stroke Play Champion Luke Toomey by 1up.
He backed that up in the afternoon, in what was a repeat of the 2013 NZ Amateur Final at the Manawatu Golf Club, when he defeated the final Tasman hope Ryan Chisnall 1up at the last with a birdie from 15 feet.
“I missed a short one on the 17th so it was nice to make up for it with that one,” he said.
“It was a great match and you could tell that both of us really wanted to win. Chizzy came back at me with two eagles in a row and I was just trying to hold on to be honest, I am stoked with the win.”
Neho has struggled with his game in recent time and said he feels like he is returning to his best.
“My swing is feeling good again and with that I am becoming more confident. It is great to be in this position after how I have played recently. I know I have a few tough matches to come but it is good to have a chance to defend my title.”
Aside from the name players, three youngsters Bailey Smith, Coxon, Brayden Mazey and Lachie McDonald enjoyed good wins to secure their places in the quarterfinals for the first time.
“I am feeling really good about my game,” said Coxon. “I am trying to not get ahead of myself as I know there is a long way to go but it is going great so far. I would love to follow what Kadin did last year.”
The opening day of the New Zealand Amateur Championship saw the top seeds bow out of contention.
Now four players – Koh, McCall, Munn and Neho – are the leading contenders to claim the prized silverware on Sunday afternoon.