MAUNGANUI, New Zealand (April 20, 2012) -- Southland's No.1 Vaughan McCall remains on track to the first golfer in 24 years to win both the New Zealand Stroke Play and the New Zealand Amateur titles in the same year. But only just. The New Zealand Stroke Play Champion saved his best to last with an approach shot to one foot to withstand a superb comeback from Canterbury rep Jordan Bakermans to progress to the quarterfinals at the Mount Maunganui Golf Club.
Bakermans, who last week won the South Island Under 19 title, forced the No.2 seed McCall to come up with his best with his stroke play when his putter went cold late in the round. “Both matches were a real grind today right from the word go,” said the 20-year-old McCall from the Gore Golf Club.
“Jordan put a huge amount of pressure on me this afternoon. I was three up with four holes to play and he went birdie, birdie and I missed a couple of short putts which made the game interesting. “I missed a short one on the second to last hole and coming down the last I made sure I didn’t have to putt it when I put it to a foot to win the match.”
Australian Ryan McCarthy, who was the No.1 seed after playing superbly in qualifying, was not so lucky. He staged a fine comeback of his own against compatriot Brady Watt but it was too little too late with the Western Australian holding on for a 1-up win.
Watt, the number 17 seed, now has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Matt Jager as an Aussie to win this event on the relatively easier side of the draw.
The top side of the draw sees Harry Bateman (13), Peter Lee (21), Tae Koh (9) and Watt looking to make the final. The other side sees Brad Hayward (19), Tom Brockelsby (22), Sam An (7) and McCall (2).
The feature match will come early tomorrow when McCall square off in the quarterfinal with another New Zealand rep An who won the Grant Clements trophy at the Mount in February.
“From tee to green I am feeling really comfortable,” said McCall. “I just have to do a bit of work on my putting and see if I can get it in order. It is definitely exciting. Tomorrow is going to be another big day so it’s a good opportunity I just have to hang in there and I back myself to do well. Sam plays the same sort of golf as me. He hits it really straight and is known for his ball striking. We are good mates so I am sure it’s going to be a good battle. There are no easy matches in this format.”
An has similar respect for McCall and was still smiling after a stellar comeback to defeat Daniel Pearce at the 19th. “I was never up in the match and at one stage I got to three down but I hung in there really well,” said the 18-year-old Auckland rep An.
"I just stayed patient and I don’t know why but even when I was three down I felt really comfortable. I had some of my putts rolling in and Pearcey made some mistakes coming in that helped me a bit."
“He was always longer off the tee but I didn’t worry about that I played my own game.”An knows that he’ll have his work cut out tomorrow to beat McCall.
“He’s a great player. I like watching him play so it will be good to play with him. It will be a good match I hope and I will do my best.”
Round One:Two of the biggest casualties this morning from the men’s field were Harrison Savage (Australia) and Brad Kendall (Mount Maunganui) the third and fourth seeds respectively.
Savage, who has overcome a severe leg injury to lead the qualifying after round one, was beaten by Craig Hamilton from the Omanu Golf Club by 3 and 1.
While the local hope Kendall, who was looking to follow in the footsteps of his father Owen a 1987 champion of the New Zealand Amateur, was defeated 3 and 1 by Tyler Hodge.The Levin Golfer Hodge continued his good form from winning the Australian Boys’ Amateur Championship last week in Queensland with three birdies in succession that was a decisive stretch.
Fraser Wilkin and Joshua Munn were also among the big name casualties alongside Lachie McDonald and Eddie Burgess, the fifth and sixth seeds respectively.