Four players share the lead at the Port Taranaki Open after superb rounds of five under par 67 in beautiful conditions at the New Plymouth Golf Club.

It’s not often Mount Taranaki is on full display in all its glory and North Harbour amateur Jonathon Ratcliffe, Hastings amateur Daniel Pearce, Taihape pro Hamish Robertson and Waikato professional Jim Cusdin took full advantage in the warm and benign conditions.

Ratcliffe, who was playing the Ngamotu course for the first time, began the hot scoring in the morning round to set the pace in the oldest event on the Charles Tour where the professionals are playing for a $40,000 purse.

“I am stoked with how I played,” said the 18-year-old from the Muriwai Golf Club.

“I have led tournaments before but nothing of this caliber so I am happy to be at the top of a quality field. There is a long way to go but it is nice to get the ball rolling.”

It is a fast turnaround for Ratcliffe who missed the cut at the Carrus Tauranga Open after a “shaky performance”.

“I didn’t play well there so it was good to get back into practice, work hard on my game and turn things around - it is a good feeling to see that pay off.”

Ratcliffe had a hot run on the front nine where he made four birdies in five holes. He capped off a fine round with a birdie on the par 5 18th for a bogey free 67.

“I holed a lot of good putts today and I tried hard to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself. We got the good side of the draw so it was nice to take advantage. It is my first time at this course and it reminds me a lot of my home course [Muriwai].

“I am used to playing in the wind and I enjoy it. I am looking forward to the challenge of being in contention and I am excited about the opportunity I now have.”

In the afternoon field Pearce got off to a fast start at four under through eight holes and finished off in a share of the lead.

“I played really solid today and I didn’t make too many mistakes,” said the 23-year-old Pearce who is now playing out of the Yarra Yarra Golf Club in Melbourne.

“I am happy to just play some good golf to be honest. I have been through a few ups and downs with my game but I am happy with my recent progress.”

Pearce was invited to join the Yarra Yarra Golf Club. He has been working on some swing changes with a new coach and with a sports psychologist to improve his mental approach.

“We have changed a few things in my swing and I feel like it’s getting there. The sports psychology is something new for me but it has been good to learn more about myself, it has been a positive experience.”

The former Hastings rep is feeling confident and likes his chances in the Port Taranaki Open.

“This course suits my eye and I feel comfortable here. I don’t know why I just seem to play well at Ngamotu. It will be about trying to do the same thing tomorrow. I will stay patient and take advantage of the scoring chances when they come.”

The recently married Robertson, who is based on the Gold Coast in Australia, matched that number with six birdies and a bogey in the afternoon.

“It was good today,” said 31-year-old. “My form has been pretty patchy with having three weeks off with the wedding. I feel like I have been struggling with consistency but I felt really comfortable today.

“It has always been my goal to win one of these and it has been for the past two years it would mean a lot to me to win and I am happy to get in contention.”

Cusdin, who won by two shots at the Carrus Tauranga Open for his breakthrough four round win, continued his purple patch of form.

“I am feeling really confident at the moment with my game and I have a lot more belief in myself now,” said the 26-year-old.

“I am wrapped with my score and we had the day for it. Normally it is blowing and showing its teeth but it was a day for scoring and it was good to post a number.”

Cusdin is excited about the chance to win back to back Charles Tour titles and has a good record at New Plymouth where he finished tied fourth in 2010.

“I like this course. It reminds me of my home course [St Andrews] I don’t know why but I feel really comfortable here. I hope the bad weather comes in because I feel like I am used to playing in those conditions

Ropiha, who has won the Port Taranaki Open as an amateur and professional, confirmed why he is one of the favourites with a four under par 68 to be in a share of fifth place with Hawera amateur Timothy White.

The former New Plymouth local, who began on the 10th tee, had six birdies and two bogeys including one on his last hole, the ninth.

“I definitely can’t hit it any worse than I did today but I had a really hot putter for the first time in a long time and that helped me put together a good round,” said the 29-year-old Taupo professional.

Ropiha enjoyed a low key build up and didn’t feel too much pressure as one of the favourites. He knows the course well and is ready for the forecasted rough weather on the weekend.

“This will be the best day of the week. You won’t get better scoring conditions than today. But I am expecting the rain and wind on the weekend. That is what makes this golf tournament.”

Ropiha believed his local knowledge at Ngamotu is his all-important 15th club in the bag.

“I back my game in the tough conditions. I will chip away and keep it out of the wind and bring out my Taranaki swing.”

Waikato amateur Emily Perry, who won by four shots at the Carrus Tauranga Open, showed her quality once more with an even par 72 to share the lead in women’s field with pro Charlotte Thomas.

The 20-year-old from the Lochiel Golf Club has been working hard on her mental game and is looking to back up her impressive Charles Tour win in Tauranga.


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