Wellington No.1 Julianne Alvarez is on track to defend her title at the John Jones Steel Harewood Open in Christchurch.

The 17-year-old from the Manor Park Golf Club, who won her first national title at the Charles Tour event in 2012, carded a one-over par 73 in strong winds today to earn a five stroke lead from Taupo amateur Grace Senior (73).

North Harbour rep Lita Guo, who won the LawnMaster Classic is 11 shots back and Kaiapoi golfer Amelia Garvey is alone in fourth place.

The New Zealand rep Alvarez will head into the final round feeling confident about her game.

“I am happy that I am playing quite consistently,” she said.

“Overall I am hitting it quite well and I am putting well. So I am feeling pretty good about my chances.”

Alvarez said her breakthrough win on the Tuner McPherson design last year was a turning point in her self-belief.

“It meant a lot to me because I hadn’t won a national title before and to win my first one was a really achievement for me.

“It backed up all the hard work that I had been doing. It felt really important and it was huge for my confidence.”

Alvarez was also humbled to meet New Zealand’s golfing knight following her win.

“It was really cool meeting Sir Bob Charles. He gave me a lot of good advice on playing as an amateur and to take every experience and learn from it. He said as long as you learn from it you have never lost so that was really good advice and helpful for me.”

Alvarez is hunting her third national title. She claimed the New Zealand Amateur Championship in April and the NZ Under 19 title in September at the Templeton Golf Club in Christchurch.

She is only one round away from completing a special year in 2013 that has seen her become a mainstay in the national senior team.

“It would be really cool to defend my title. I feel like I have handled this week pretty well. You can feel the pressure building as we get to the end of the week. But if I focus on continuing to hit the fairways and make my putts it should take care of itself.“



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