An unemployed Irishman on his overseas experience is the surprise round one joint leader at the North Island Stroke Play at the Lochiel Golf Club.

Ciaran Molloy, who came to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 with his good mate Eugene Smith, carded five birdies, three bogeys and an eagle for a four under par 68 to share the lead with Sean Masters (Kaitaia) and Craig Hamilton (Omanu).

“I am loving New Zealand, coming down for the Rugby World Cup seemed like a good way to escape our winter back home,” said the 28-year-old from the Ardee Golf Club in County Louth.

Molloy, who qualifies for the event by winning a world ranking event in the North of Ireland Open Stroke Play, got an early St Patrick’s Day present with a solid opening round in fine conditions.

“I hit the greens and fairways. I started off with bogeys on two of the first three but it’s a short golf course and there are plenty of chances. I played well on the back nine.”

Molloy, who is playing his golf in New Zealand at the Remuera Golf Club in Auckland, made an eagle at the first (his 10th) and then three further birdies to come home in five under 31.

He left his job last week at The Golf Warehouse and is looking for a bar job.

Molloy hasn’t entered the New Zealand Stroke Play next week in Hastings because “I don’t have enough funds to go away every weekend and Hastings just seemed too far away”.

He explained his golf record wasn’t too flash with his North of Ireland Open Stroke Play an obvious highlight of his career, “but I haven’t set the world on fire” he was quick to add.

Northland rep Masters was also impressive in the opening round with a round that included six birdies and two bogeys to outshine many of his older rivals.

New Zealand rep Sam An continued his good form by opening with a three under par 69 to be in a share of third place with Auckland team-mate Tae Koh from the Manukau Golf Club.

The Titirangi Golfer, who last year won the New Zealand Under 19 title, came home strong with three birdies in the final three holes to get to set the early clubhouse lead.

“I struggled a bit today on the front nine. I made two birdies and two bogeys and then I was putting well on the back nine,” said the 17-year-old.

“I made a bad shot on 15 – I had a shank – but I made bogey and then managed to finish birdie, birdie, birdie for a good finish.“

Jordan Bakermans (Christchurch) is alone in fifth place with a further four players back in a share of sixth including former New Zealand Stroke Play Champion Brad Kendall.

Meanwhile Emily Perry lived up to her favourite billing on her home track to card a one under par 71 to share the lead with former New Zealand Amateur champion Larissa Eruera (Aviation).

Perry, who today was named as one of three players to represent New Zealand at the Queen Sirikit Cup in Singapore, mixed three birdies with two bogeys.

Fai Thongdesthri (Hamilton), Lita Guo (Remuera), Sarah Bradley (Cambridge) and Mun Chin Keh (Titirangi) are a shot further back in third place at even par.

But the focus remains on the local girl to see if she can claim a win at her home club. Perry wasn’t totally satisfied with her effort.

“I left a lot out there,” said the 21-year-old.

“I played really scratchy but I took advantage of the par fives. I am happy with the score.”

She admitted it was a weird feeling playing a national championship at Lochiel as the favourite.

“It was a little bit strange on the first few holes but I guess you have to embrace that pressure. I didn’t take too much advantage of my local knowledge todaybut tomorrow I am going to change things up a bit and be more aggressive. It obviously helps being at home.”



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