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Amateurs lead the Australian Open amid haze from bush fires
Chun An Yu and Takumi Kanaya lead at a smoky Australian GC (Twitter/@paulprendo photo)
Chun An Yu and Takumi Kanaya lead at a smoky Australian GC (Twitter/@paulprendo photo)

Amid smoke and haze from nearby bush fires, two amateurs share the lead after the first round of the Australian Open.

Japan’s Takumi Kanaya, the No. 1-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and Taiwan’s Chun-An Yu, a senior at Arizona State and the No. 1 ranked player in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Ranking, posted rounds of 6-under 65.

Playing the back nine at the Australian Golf Course to open his round, the Japanese player had five birdies. He bogeyed the par-4 third hole before making birdie on the eighth and ninth holes.

The leaders had a two-stroke lead over 2015 champion Matt Jones and fellow Australians Dimi Papadatos and Daniel Nisbet.

A winner last month in his homeland, 21-year-old Kanaya’s round came four years after he signed for an 85 at this course in his Australian Open debut.

“I have a little confidence, but I have three more days, so I will do my best tomorrow,” Kanaya said.

Jones complained of burning eyes from the smoke blowing in from about 25 bush and grass fires burning across New South Wales state, including a large one in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

“It’s awful,” Jones saíd. “The smoke’s not good at all. It’s tough to see your golf ball when you’re out there playing, where it finishes. Your eyes do burn up. I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room.”

Players dealt with the haze in different ways, but it posed a particular problem for New Zealander Ryan Chisnall, who suffers from asthma. According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Chisnall coughed and sputtered through the start of his round on Thursday afternoon before borrowing a face mask from a spectator. Several in the galleries were seen wearing them.

Robert Allenby reportedly ran out of eye-drops mid-round because he was applying them so frequently. Scott remarked that he felt he needed to spray salt water up his nose as a post-round cleanse.

While Golf Australia’s Stephen Pitt said he was confident the tournament would proceed without any smoke delays, he said officials will closely monitor the weather with children and elderly spectators most susceptible to the threatening air quality.

“Firstly, our issues with smoke at a golf tournament pale into insignificance with the things that home owners and property owners and people right around the country have dealt with,” Pitt said of the fires which have killed six people and destroyed dozens of homes.

“So we’re very aware of that fact and all our sympathies and thoughts go to them because that’s the real issue.”

Pitt said it was a new type of threat for the tournament.

“It’s something we’ve never had to give consideration to before,” he said. “We’ve had storms and rain and hail and heat and cold and all those sort of things that are your typical golf tournament issues. But this one is new and we have been in constant contact with the Bureau of Meteorology.”

ABOUT THE Australian Open

The Australian Open is Golf Australia's National Open Men's Championship, and is sanctioned by the Australian PGA Tour and forms part of the ONEASIA series of events. Many of Australia's top amateurs qualify for the event.

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