Japan, with Taiga Semikawa shooting 9-under 63, distanced itself from a tightly packed leaderboard with a 14-under-par 130 to take a six-stroke lead over Spain in the first round of the 32nd World Amateur Team Championship.
“I know this is the world’s biggest stage, the biggest stage on the planet,” Semikawa said. “I am stunned. I really trust my teammates. I didn’t feel any stress today. I felt comfortable and is why I had such a low score.”
Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the host nation France share third place, seven strokes behind Japan.
Playing in the afternoon at Golf de Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche, 2022 Japan Amateur Champion Kohei Okada shot a 5-under 67 with six birdies and Taiga Semikawa, fueled by a 6-under front nine, had 10 birdies to pass the morning wave leaders.
Keita Nakajima, the two-time Mark H. McCormack medal winner as the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, shot a non-counting 72.
“We have two new boys, first time at this level, so I am extremely pleased with them,” said Japan’s Captain Gareth Jones. “They didn’t seem to show many nerves. They felt the freedom to play their own golf games. They didn’t have restrictions on them. They all drive the ball a long way and that’s an advantage at St. Nom.”
Also at Golf de Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche, Spain’s David Puig shot a 6-under 66 and Josele Ballester added a 2-under 70.
“We know we are a strong team, but we started with two double bogeys on the second hole,” said Spanish Captain Carlos De Corral. “But after that we created a lot of birdie opportunities. David Puig was four under after eight holes and is playing confidently. We have the feeling we could have been better than 8 under.”
Germany’s Jonas Baumgartner, who plays at Oklahoma State University, notched nine birdies en route to a 6-under 65 and teammate Anton Albers shot 1-under 70 at Le Golf National.
“Today, my putter was really hot,” Baumgartner said. “I hit a lot of good shots that were pretty close, and I made a lot of putts, especially on the front nine. I was really comfortable on the greens, and they are rolling perfect. I had a good read on them and just kept going.”
France, vying to become the first host country to win since the USA at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1980, posted a 4-under 67 from Martin Couvra and a 3-under 68 from Julien Sale.
“We were under a lot of pressure today, the first day of championship,” said French Captain Antoine Delon. “I am so, so happy and proud of my players. But it is going to be a long, long tournament. But we are so happy for the start.”
Austria used the combination of Christoph Bleier (68) and Maximilian Steinlechner (69) for their share of third. Bleier posted an eagle and six birdies in his round.
Italy, with Open Championship low amateur Philippo Celli shooting 67 and Marco Florioli shooting 68; Sweden, led by Tobias Johnsson’s 67 and Switzerland, led by Cedric Gugler’s 66, were the other teams in third.
The USA and England share ninth place. A pair of 3-under 68s by Austin Greaser and Michael Thorbjornsen accounted for the American score and England received the same scores from Sam Bairstow and John Gough.
“I think I was two missed clubs away from a really low one,” said Greaser. “Today, going out early, we had some good conditions, low winds, kind of softer on the greens and we were definitely able to fire at some of those flagsticks more than you typically would.” Greaser, who plays for the University of North Carolina, won the 2022 Western Amateur and was runner-up at the 2021 U.S. Amateur.
ABOUT THE Men's World Amateur Team
In 1958 the United States Golf Association
asked The R&A to join them in sponsoring
a world-wide amateur golf team event to
be played biennially in non-Walker Cup
years. Between 35 and 40 nations were
represented at the first meeting and
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
presented the trophy which bears his
name. The committee of the event was to
be known as the World Amateur Golf
Council and is now the International Golf
Federation. Teams of four players from
each country competed over 72 holes with
the leading three scores from each round
to count. The first competition was held
between 29 nations at St Andrews, with
Australia beating the United States in a
play-off. In 2002 the format changed to
teams of three with the two leading
scores to count.
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