NZ STROKE PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP: THREE SHARE THE LEAD AT HASTINGS

22/03/2014

 

Three golfers share the lead heading into the final round of the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship.

 

 

Sam An, the wire-to-wire leader so far, carded a one-under par 71 in the cool and overcast conditions today at the Hastings Golf Club and was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Waikato rep Luke Toomey (68) and Auckland team-mate Tae Koh (70).

All three golfers, who are on a 10-under par total, are looking to claim their first senior national title and make a statement to the NZ selectors ahead of the Eisenhower Trophy event in Japan in September.

Takaka golfer Blair Riordan (70) is the closest challenger, three shots back, while 2012 champion Vaughan McCall (67) and Bay of Plenty teenager Bailey Smith (72) are in a share of fifth place, four shots back.

Waikato rep Toomey is feeling a sense of déjà vu about his position.

The 21-year-old from the Riverside Golf Club was the joint third round leader at 10-under par two years ago at the Hastings Golf Club in the same championship.

He went onto to shoot 75 to finish in a share of third place, six shots behind champion McCall, and he feels like his game has matured out of sight since then.

“I feel like I am much better player and that I have come a long way in those past two years and I’d like to prove that tomorrow,” he said.

“[In 2012] I just went out and tried to enjoy the Sunday, which I did, and I will do the same tomorrow but with a bit more purpose.”

Toomey said he enjoyed the battle with An and Koh today and is looking forward to the final round shootout for the St Andrews Salver.

“Whoever shoots the lowest tomorrow is going to win and that is how it should be.”

The New Zealand rep feels right at home at Hastings and making a plethora of birdies around here doesn’t seem to be a problem for him. He is the only player to shoot three rounds in the 60s this week.

“It is forgiving off the tee so that plays into my hands if I can get a few long balls out there and try to make the course as short as possible. I will try to keep the momentum up and give it a go.”

His favourite shot of the third round came at the 152m par 3 fourth where he hit his tee shot to one foot for a tap-in birdie.

Toomey, who won the NZ Under 17 Championship at the North Shore Golf Club, is looking to win his first senior national title. He is trying not to get ahead of himself.

“I’ll hit the ball, go and find it and then count them up at the end.”

An also feels like he is ready to step up to claim the coveted trophy.

The 20-year-old from the Titirangi Golf Club held a one shot lead heading down the 18th hole but bogeyed the last hole to slip back to a share of the lead. He is still positive about his chances.

“I haven’t been in this position that much so I am looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

“I didn’t feel like I played like the leader today but I still scored alright. It is not quite there yet but hopefully the course plays into my hands tomorrow.”

An, who is a former New Zealand Foursomes and NZ U19 champion, said he was proud of the way he had handled the pressure of being the leader from day one.

His best shot of the day came on the par 3 16th when he hit a seven iron to the 135m par three to about two feet.

“It looked good the whole way and I thought it was going in but a tap-in birdie is always good. I feel like I am playing well enough to win, I just need to put it all together.”

Meanwhile Koh was frustrated with his two-under par 70 that could have been so much better.

“I had a lot of putts that were hole-able from within 15 – 20 feet but I didn’t make any of them,” said the 19-year-old from the Manukau Golf Club.

“I struck the ball really well but my putting was just off today. Hopefully the luck goes with me tomorrow and I can have a good day on the greens.”

Koh mixed three birdies and a bogey in his round which didn’t have too many highlights but he did enjoy hitting a 65m pitch to three feet on the 14th for an easy birdie.

He expected the winner to come from the final group and thought he needed to shoot in the 60s to have a chance of claiming the title.

If he does he will make history as the first golfer to win both the Australian Amateur Championship and the New Zealand Stroke Play title in the same year.

“I am looking forward to the final round, all three of us can shoot low numbers so it will be a good challenge.”

 

 

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