As a youngster growing up in the Bay of Plenty James Hamilton idolized Josh Geary.

A few years later he has the chance to upset his hero in the final round of the John Jones Steel Harewood Open in Christchurch.

The Omanu professional is on the cusp of the biggest win of his golfing career after he shot a three-under par 69 to hold a one stroke lead from Geary (71) heading into the final round of the $40,000 Charles Tour event.

Masterton professional Harry Bateman and Levin amateur Tyler Hodge share third place six shots back from the seven-under par total of Hamilton.

The 24-year-old leader has clear memories of being mentored by the three-time Charles Tour Champion.

“He is pretty much the guy I have looked up to my whole golf career in the Bay,” Hamilton said of Geary.

“He is the best isn’t he? He is one of the best players in New Zealand and he does it quite consistently. He helped me a lot throughout my career as well. He is a few years older than me and he has held some clinics in the Bay and

showed us how to play some shots. It is pretty funny looking back on that.

“It is a massive honour to challenge someone as good as Josh.”

Hamilton said the key moment in his impressive third round was rallying on the par five 14th for par.

“I hit a bad drive into the trees on the left,” he said. “I still had 400m to the hole and then I almost topped my three wood and I still three wood to the front edge and two putted for my five. So that was a great five from where I was.”

He backed it up with a superb birdie on the par 3 15th as he continued his momentum on the closing stretch.

“I hit a really good shot there to that par three to about 15 feet coming in off the wind. I rolled the ball really well in the last four holes which helped for a good finish.”

The former Bay of Plenty amateur rep handled being in the final group of a Charles Tour event for the first time superbly.

“I felt surprisingly relaxed. I was a bit nervous to start with but I relaxed into it and just played steady golf. I think I will sleep well tonight. I am feeling good. I just have to do the same thing. I am feeling pretty relaxed I just need to

get some food into me and I will be good to go.”

The significance of tomorrow’s final round of the last Charles Tour event is not lost on Hamilton.

“It would be massive. I haven’t been playing that good. I haven’t been enjoying my golf at all so it is nice to have a change so if I was to win that would be massive for me.”

Meanwhile the tournament favourite Geary was happy enough with his one-under par 71 which helped him stay in touch.

“I struggled all day really,” said the 28-year-old Mount Maunganui professional.

“It was a bit of a flat-liner. I couldn’t get anything going really and I battled a bit with the wind. But I birdied the last two holes to finish at one under so it was a bit of a steal in the end.”

Geary said he was still feeling good about claiming his fourth Charles Tour title and joining Doug Holloway and Michael Hendry as the most successful players in the local series.

“Anything can happen around here,” he said. “If I just keep doing what I am doing one shot is nothing. It can be gone in half a hole. It is looking like it will be a bit calmer tomorrow so it should be good to play it in calmer conditions.”



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