CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (April 20, 2011) -- Sam An was the talk of the Lion Foundation New Zealand Stroke play at the Russley Golf Club in Christchurch after he shot a scintillating six under 66 in benign and cold conditions today.
The 17-year-old from the Titirangi Golf Club carded his lowest score in tournament golf to take a two shot lead into round two from Russley local Shaun Jones, Wellington’s Tom Brockelsby and Auckland’s Ryan Fox.
“It feels really good to shoot my best ever score in competitive golf,” said An who previously had a best score of 67 at the New Zealand Under 19 in Hamilton.
“I played really solid today and it was nice to make a few putts to start with a good number."
“There is a long way to go so I am not getting ahead of myself. I will play with the same game plan tomorrow.”
Meantime Lydia Ko continued her good form with a four under par 70 in the afternoon to establish a two shot lead from her good friend Cecilia Cho.
“It was a good turnaround after a poor start,” said Ko, who began on the 11th tee.
“About 99 percent of my putts on my front nine were about 3m long so I put myself under pressure."
“I made an eagle on two that turned it all around and came home strong to finish four under.”
World No.2 amateur Cho is looking for improvement in round two to make up ground on Ko.
“I hit the ball well but I missed a few 2m putts and my long putting wasn’t very good,” said the 16-year-old Cho.
“But I am happy to start under par and I want to go better tomorrow.”
Four shots back from Ko is Filipino golfer Sarah Jane Ababa (74), Chihiro Ikeda and Emily Perry both had one over par 75 scores in the opening round while the men’s leaderboard had many players in red numbers.
The leader An, who had only played Russley twice - winning the Foursomes on Tuesday with Auckland team-mate Fraser Wilkin, set the course alight with five birdies, an eagle and one dropped shot.
“It is a good test – the fairways are tight and if you hit it in the rough you are punished.”
He has a goal of qualifying for the Srixon Academy which is named at the end of the Lion Foundation New Zealand Amateur as he eyes building on his limited international experience.
“I learned so much from my time in Aussie [in March] – it showed me how much better I have to be as a golfer to compete.”Russley local Jones was happy with his best score on his home track where he was sure local knowledge would play a part.
“There are a few putts you don’t want to attack and some rough you don’t want to be in,” said Jones.
“I am not known for shooting low but I think consistency will win the title, I don’t expect the 72 hole total will be that low.”
In the afternoon Fox made two birdies and an eagle on the front nine to hit the turn at four under and then held it together on the back nine to be two shots back from his Auckland team-mate.
The New Zealand rep's par on the par five 13th was remarkable; his tee shot ended up stuck in a tree as a lost ball, he played three off the tee and got down in par – an eagle with his second ball to finish with a 68.
“It was that sort of round really – it could have been two under or eight under,” said Fox who made a fine birdie on 18.“It was disappointing to bogey 14 and 16 but overall I am pretty happy.”
Not so happy was World No.6 Ben Campbell who shot a one over par 73 to be seven shots back.
“I played pretty solid, I just made some mistakes coming home,” said the New Zealand number one who is based in Melbourne.
“I need to sort out my driving and the ball isn’t spinning as much on these greens as it is in Aussie – I need to adjust.”
Defending New Zealand Stroke play Champion Brad Kendall had a one under par 71 and deflected any pressure of trying to be the first player to win back to back titles since Marcus Wheelhouse (1993, 1994).
“I don’t see it as defending, I see it as just another tournament and I feel comfortable here at Russley - it feels like Bridge Pa.”