CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (April 21, 2011) -- Red and Black lined the fairways on day two with most of the 156 golfers in the Lion Foundation New Zealand Strokeplay wearing Canterbury colours for the people of Christchurch in the wake of the earthquake. Russley local Shaun Jones was inspired by the gesture to take a share of the lead at the halfway stage.
While in the women’s field Lydia Ko enjoyed the good fortune of a friendly draw to shoot a one under 73 to extend her lead to five shots from familiar rival Cecilia Cho (76).
But it was the 25-year-old Canterbury rep Jones who the locals were talking about over their beers at the Red and Black Party with Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker in attendance.
To say his three under par 69 in the bitterly cold, howling afternoon Easterly wind was impressive is an understatement.
Jones, who had a fine New Zealand Amateur in 2010 defeating both Ben Campbell and Ryan Fox on his way to the semifinals where he lost to eventual champion Matt Jager, has been practicing hard at his home course to be ready for the national championship.
“I loved seeing everyone in red and black – it was like I was playing for Canterbury,” said Jones who yesterday shot his best round at Russley (68).
“When I saw the wind this afternoon I thought two over par would have been a good score but to shoot four under in that wind was awesome. I hit my low ball all day and it worked really well.”
Jones can’t wait to take on Fox again, this time on his home track with a parochial gallery in support.
“I enjoyed beating him last year and I can’t wait for another crack around this course I know pretty well.”
Earlier in the day New Zealand rep Fox made the best of the good side of the draw by shooting a three under par 69 to set the clubhouse lead at seven under par.
“I am comfortable leading – or around the lead – and I take some confidence from the North Island Strokeplay[where he won by 11 shots],” said the 24-year-old Fox.
“It has been nice to carry that form on and after a scratchy front nine today, I was pleased I hit it better coming home and hole some putts.”
Ryan’s All Black dad Grant, who is caddying for him this week, is more than familiar with the Canterbury – Auckland rivalry playing in many epic Ranfurly Shield battles during the 1980s and 90s, and that rivalry is sure to be reignited over the weekend as his son tries to win his first New Zealand Strokeplay title.
Brimming with confidence following his emphatic North Island Strokeplay win at Whitford Park, Fox scrambled well on the front nine to be even and then came home with four birdies (three in a row after the turn), and one dropped shot at the 9th.
Fox, who had never played at Russley before this week, expected a good battle with a number of club members like Jones and Mark O’Malley (-2) in contention.
“I don’t think that there will be a runaway winner like I did at Whitford , it is just not that easy to score well and I expect a few of the Russley boys to fire because local knowledge helps a lot here.”
Wellington’s Tom Brockelsby, who last year went undefeated in his debut for Wellington in the Toro Interprovincials in 2010, fired a one under 71, with a double on his last hole, in the afternoon to remain in contention.
“It was unbelievably hard in the wind,” said Brockelsby.
“I played well and grinded hard so it was disappointing to drop a few shots coming home.”
Overnight leader Sam An backed up his best competitive score (66) with a one over par 73 and was happy with his work in the wind.
“The wind makes this course totally different - all of your approach shots into the greens hard and it brings in the rough more,” said the 17-year-old.
Meantime in the women’s field Ko was not very happy even though she extended her lead to five shots when she fired a one under par 71.
“I rammed a few putts and my short game wasn’t great but I’ll get better,” said Ko.
She is aiming to become the first woman to win both the Australian Strokeplay and the New Zealand Strokeplay in the same year.
“That would be really cool,” said the spritely 13-year-old.
“I feel so much more confident in strokeplay events now after my wins in Aussie and the North Island so I will see what Cecilia [Cho] and the other girls do this afternoon.
“I didn’t play very well today but I am happy where I am in the tournament and I look forward to the weekend.”
Even the staunchest Aucklanders enjoyed the show of support for Christchurch.
“It was great to see everyone wearing red and black,” said Fox.
“It is a cool idea and it looks great – I hope the people from Canterbury appreciated it.”
There was the chance to make a donation on the first and eleventh tees and Christchurch Mayor Parker was humbled by the Red and Black presence on course and attendance for the party in the evening.