Both the men's and women's reigning champions will defend their titles in the 36-hole finals of the Lion Foundation New Zealand Amateur matchplay championships at Hastings tomorrow.
The men's champion, Australian Matt Jager, will play Mt Maunganui teenager Brad Kendall, who won the strokeplay title on Saturday. Aucklander Cecilia Cho, who won the women's matchplay championship at Titirangi last year, will play 18-year-old Chihiro Ikeda, a Filipina with a Japanese father. The last man to win consecutive matchplay titles was Aucklander Terry Pulman in 1976 and 1977 while the last woman to achieve that feat was Australian Loraine Lambert in 1991 and 1992.
The men's semifinals were both close affairs. Jager holed a long putt to take a one-shot lead into the 18th hole against the dark horse of the field, 24-year-old Cantabrian Shaun Jones. On the last Jager negotiated a path between some tall gum trees to secure the half for victory one up.
Kendall, whose father Owen won the matchplay title in 1987, was playing "a good mate" Gary John Hill and by his own admission found it hard to retain the form that has seen him unbeaten for the week. He got ahead early in the round and finally clinched the win 2 and 1 with a long putt on the 17th.
The 15-year-old Cho was always in control of her semifinal against Wellington youngster Julianne Alvarez, winning 4 and 3.
But there was to be no repeat of last year's final against 12-year-old Lydia Ko as the North Harbour youngster lost on the final green to Ikeda, who won gold for the Philippines at the South-East Asian Games in Laos last December. The match, which was close all the way, was sealed when Ikeda holed an 8m putt across the 18th green for a birdie.
Jones provided the upset of the quarter-finals by beating New Zealand representative Ryan Fox 3 and 1, thanks to some great recovery play, a chip-in and some clutch putts. A member of the Canterbury team that finished second in the inter-provincials, he had only previously played one national championship four years ago at Coringa.
Results, Lion Foundation New Zealand Amateur Championships, Hastings GC:
Men, Quarterfinals: Brad Kendall (Mt Maunganui) bt Ben Wallace (Royal Auckland) 5 and 3, Shaun Jones (Russley) bt Ryan Fox (Royal Auckland) 3 and 1, Gary John Hill (Titirangi) bt Daniel Pearce (Hastings) at 19th, Matt Jager (Australia) bt Jin Jeong (Australia) 5 and 4.
Semifinals: Kendall bt Hill 2 and 1, Jager bt Jones 1 up.
Women, Quarterfinals: Chihiro Ikeda (Philippines) bt Rebekah Brownlee (Gulf Harbour) 2 and 1, Lydia Ko (North Shore) bt Eri Joma (Japan) 6 and 5, Julianne Alvarez (Manor Park) bt Emily Eng (Remuera) 3 and 1, Cecilia Cho (Pakuranga) bt Rica Tse (Muriwai) 2 up.
Semifinals: Ikeda bt Ko 1 up, Cho bt Alvarez 4 and 3.
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